The 70th World Health Assembly in Geneva on 30 May passed a resolution to intensify action to prevent deafness and hearing loss around the globe.
The new resolution calls on governments to integrate strategies for ear and hearing care within the framework of their primary health care systems; to establish training programmes for health workers; implement prevention and screening programmes for high-risk populations; and improve access to affordable, cost-effective, high-quality, assistive hearing technologies and products. It emphasises the importance of ensuring universal access to prevention and care.
The resolution – which can be seen in full at http://apps.who.int/gb/ebwha/pdf_files/EB139/B139_R1-en.pdf?ua=1 – also called on the World Health Organisation’s Secretariat to prepare a world report on hearing and to provide support to countries to help them reduce hearing loss, including that caused by exposure to noise.
Some 360 million people across the world live with disabling hearing loss, a total that includes 32 million children and nearly 180 million older adults. Nearly 90% of the people with hearing loss live in low- and middle-income countries, which often lack resources and strategies to address hearing loss. Most cases of hearing loss can be avoided, and can be successfully managed through cost-effective interventions.
Dr Shelly Chadha from the WHO – who delivered a webinar the day before this year’s World Hearing Day for BSHAA – said: “This resolution will provide new direction and impetus to our efforts in this field.”
BSHAA Chief Executive Prof David Welbourn said: “At a time when evidence increasingly shows the important contribution good hearing makes in almost all aspects of healthy ageing, it is fitting for the WHO to give such a strong endorsement to action. Let us hope that the UK Government hears this wake-up call and takes some positive action to close the growing gulf between policy intentions set out in its Action Plan for Hearing and actual practices of rationing (often covert) and service withdrawal in many parts of the country.”