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ENT 2021

Ensuring hearing care for all

iStock / Getty Images Plus / YULIIA POLIASHENKO

Sue Archbold

Patron of National Association of Deafened People (NADP), Member of WHO Working Group

Lidia Best

Chair of The National Association of Deafened People (NADP), Member of WHO Working Group

Deafness and hearing loss are largely misunderstood and this has been particularly exposed during this pandemic, distinctly with the lack of planning for communication access to health and support services.

From the inability to recognise speech when masks are worn, to inaccessibility of telephone appointments, this is the reality faced by people who are deaf or have a hearing loss. The need for appropriate planning and implementation of services healthcare and telehealth that are accessible to all has never been greater. For the National Association of Deafened People (“NADP”), World Hearing Day is a chance to highlight urgency to take hearing loss and its wider impact on the individuals and on society with an event supported by APPG on Deafness and APPG on Disability.

Every year on 3rd March, the world celebrates World Hearing Day, led by the team at World Health Organisation (WHO.) Global action has grown – last year there were 588 activities registered around the world, from 108 countries.

Increased interest in Ear and Hearing Care

The interest at WHO in Ear and Hearing Care has developed rapidly over recent years with the appointment of Dr Shelly Chadha as Technical Officer for Prevention of Deafness and Hearing Loss at WHO. Her great work led to the World Resolution WHA 70.13 in 2017, which asked all Member States to integrate strategies for Ear and Hearing Care within the framework of their primary health care systems. To support the implementation of the Resolution, WHO created the World Hearing Forum, a global network of stakeholders.

World Hearing Day is important every year. But now, more than ever, it is important to raise awareness on deafness and hearing loss to encourage accessibility during this pivotal time.  The U.K Government’s response to COVID-19 must be disability-inclusive, the battle to get accessible communications, including BSL, is reflective of this and we have a lot more work to do.

Dr.Lisa Cameron MP

One of the world’s biggest challenges

We have been privileged to be part of the working groups at WHO and to work with some of the key people who have ensured that Ear and Hearing Care has become such an important topic there, with the realisation that this is one of the world’s biggest challenges.

WHO estimates that approximately 466 million adults experience disabling hearing loss with a cost globally of $750 billion per annum. They also recognise the cost of undressed hearing to society – and the theme of World Hearing Day 2017 was A Sound Investment: investing in managing hearing care changes lives and saves society money.

The inaugural meeting of the World Hearing Forum in Geneva in Dec 2019 hosted a group of 198 participants from throughout the world. The major areas of work decided were: World Hearing Day, Monitoring the Resolution, the World Report on Hearing, Make Listening Safe and Champions for Hearing.

Little did we know at that time… however, the Pandemic has provided opportunities as well as challenges. The Forum now meets online with excellent webinars – where many who would not have the opportunity of attending at Geneva can participate fully and share the work of leading experts in the field of hearing care.

Hearing care for ALL

This year the theme of World Hearing Day is Hearing Care for ALL: Screen. Rehabilitate. Communicate, coinciding with the launch of the first ever World Report on Hearing. The global events of the day will be recorded over 24 hours on a Hear-a-thon 2021 Facebook page (#hearathon).

The Report provides the most up to date evidence on Ear and Hearing Care and is an invaluable tool for change for those endeavouring to improve services. It makes clear that the number of people living with unaddressed hearing loss and ear diseases is unacceptable and investing in hearing care benefits people with hearing loss brings financial gains to society.

The World Report on Hearing’s recommendations set an important global agenda to bring Ear and Hearing Care to the forefront of policymakers, public health officials, and governments. This is a real opportunity to make it known that access to timely and appropriate hearing care is essential for people with hearing loss, enabling them to achieve their full potential.

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