by Jan L. Mayes, MSc, Audiologist (Retired)
The World Health Organization has published the first ever World Report on Hearing. This report shows it’s more cost-effective to invest in prevention and universal health coverage for ear and hearing care than to continue paying rising costs of untreated hearing loss related to impaired learning, social isolation, poor mental health, accidents, dementia, and other health problems. The goal is to drive national public health policy to implement H.E.A.R.I.N.G. interventions by 2030.
The H.E.A.R.I.N.G acronym summarizes key interventions across the lifespan:
- Hearing screening;
- Ear disease management;
- Access to technologies;
- Rehabilitation services;
- Improved communication;
- Noise reduction; and
- Greater community engagement.
The long term benefit is people with ear problems or hearing loss will get the testing, treatment, amplification, or rehabilitation they need at no financial hardship. Disability access will improve with enhanced listening technologies at schools and public venues, closed captioning availability, and sign language services where needed.
Interventions including safer listening education programs will help prevent noise-induced hearing loss from personal listening, entertainment venues like nightclubs, and occupations. A safer listening device manufacturing standard is outlined. The report doesn’t discuss health coverage of hearing protection or tinnitus and hyperacusis care. Interventions don’t address limiting harmful public noise exposure at homes, schools, or public spaces from environmental sources like transit, traffic, and consumer or commercial products and machinery.
The World Hearing Report is a call to action. WHO analysis shows over a 10-year period, for every U.S. $1 invested in public ear and hearing care under national health systems, there will be at least U.S. $16 return or gain. National policy makers can use WHO resources and software to help prioritize and implement H.E.A.R.I.N.G interventions. As WHO Director-General Dr. Ghebreyesus states, “we can no longer afford to turn a deaf ear to hearing loss.”
Jan L. Mayes is an international Eric Hoffer Award winning author in Non-Fiction Health. She is also a science enthusiast and newly retired audiologist still specializing in noise, tinnitus-hyperacusis, and hearing health. You can read more of Jan’s work at her site, www.janlmayes.com.