Urgent Call to Action: Inclusion of Hearing Loss on the Global Health Agenda


Urgent Call to Action: Inclusion of Hearing Loss on the Global Health Agenda

Resolution and action plan for prevention of deafness and hearing loss 

From 22-31 May 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) will host the Seventieth World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva. This annual meeting of health ministers, representing 195 countries, sets out the general direction of the WHO’s work and priorities.

Critically for Sound Seekers and for the 360 million people across the world with disabling hearing loss, for the first time in more than 20 years, a key resolution on hearing loss is being proposed for adoption by the member states.

Currently, despite the high rates of hearing loss worldwide and the economic burden this brings, hearing loss remains absent from the global health agenda. Yet it is one of the most pressing developmental health issues due to the significant impact of ear diseases and hearing loss on communication, education, livelihood, social well-being and economic independence of individuals as well as on communities and countries. Furthermore, most of the causes of hearing loss are avoidable and the interventions available are both successful and cost-effective so it is shocking that people with ear diseases and hearing loss in the developing world have limited or no access to health, education and support services.

Adopting the resolution on hearing loss at the World Health Assembly would ensure that it becomes a priority on the global health agenda, encouraging all member states to take appropriate measures to implement the recommendations included in the resolution.

Join the Call to Action

Please contact the Ministry of Health in your country or in any country where you have a network. They will be able to advise the name of their representative at the World Health Assembly. Please write to the representative asking them to support the resolution on hearing loss in May.

Adoption of the resolution will ensure that hearing loss becomes part of the global health agenda and that access to ear and hearing health, education and support services starts improving for people with hearing loss.

The adoption of the resolution is the first step to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which guide the development agenda until 2030 and include ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages, and ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Failure to adopt the resolution will hinder the attainment of these SDGs because without life-changing ear and hearing health care, education and support services for people with hearing loss, they will continue to be left behind.

Please contact your representative at the World Health Assembly now to ensure this does not happen.

Recommendations proposed by the resolution include:

  • Integrating strategies for ear and hearing care within the framework of each country’s primary health care systems by such means as raising awareness at all levels and building political commitment;
  • Collating high-quality population-based data on ear diseases and hearing loss in order to develop evidence-based strategies and policies;
  • Establishing of suitable training programmes for development of human resources in the field of ear and hearing care;
  • Ensuring the highest possible coverage of vaccination against rubella, measles, mumps and meningitis, in line with the immunization targets of the global vaccine action plan 2011–2020 and in accordance with national priorities;
  • Developing, implementing and monitoring screening programmes for early identification of ear diseases such as chronic suppurative otitis media and hearing loss in high-risk populations, including infants, young children, older adults and people exposed to noise in occupational and recreational settings;
  • Improving access to affordable, high-quality, assistive hearing technologies and products, including hearing aids, cochlear implants and other assistive devices, as part of universal health coverage;
  • Developing and implementing regulations for control of noise in occupational settings, at entertainment venues and through personal audio systems, as well as for control of ototoxic medicines;
  • Improving access to means of communication through promoting alternative methods of communication, such as sign language and captioning; and
  • Working towards the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals 3 (Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages) and 4 (Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all) in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with special reference to people with hearing loss.

For more information on the proposals in the resolution, please visit: http://apps.who.int/gb/ebwha/pdf_files/EB139/B139_5-en.pdf?ua=1