WHO: Nearly one in four worldwide will have some hearing loss by 2050
WHO’s inaugural World Report on Hearing estimates that about one in four people — or about 2.5 billion — worldwide will have some type of hearing loss by 2050.
The report, issued in conjunction with World Hearing Day on March 3, indicates that most of those impacted by WHO’s 2050 projections live in the agency’s Western Pacific region, followed by the Southeast Asian, African, American, European and Eastern Mediterranean regions.
“Untreated hearing loss can have a devastating impact on people’s ability to communicate, to study and to earn a living,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, MSc, said in a press release. “It can also impact on people’s mental health and their ability to sustain relationships.”
Many people with ear conditions and hearing loss struggle to access health care services, according to WHO. For these patients, WHO said the “most glaring gap” in health care access is the lack of qualified health care professionals. The agency reported that for each 1 million residents of low-income countries, 78% have fewer than one ear, nose and throat specialist and 93% have fewer than one audiologist. Even in countries with a high proportion of health care professionals in ear and hearing care, there is inequitable access to them.
WHO’s report also indicated that 60% of hearing loss in youth could be prevented with early childhood immunizations, improvements in maternal and neonatal care as well as proper screening and management of otitis media. Other initiatives that can help reduce the burden of hearing loss include:
- incorporating “people-centered” ear and hearing care in universal health coverage;
- strengthening health systems to provide “integrated people-centered ear and hearing care” at all levels;
- overseeing and participating in awareness campaigns that discuss ear diseases and hearing loss attitudes and stigma;
- ascertaining goals towards hearing loss elimination, recording national trends and assessing progress in these goals; and
- encouraging high-quality public health research on ear and hearing care.
The report estimated that governments can expect a return of nearly 16 international dollars for every 1 dollar invested in efforts to reduce hearing loss.
“The World Report on Hearing is the culmination of extensive collaboration of WHO with experts and stakeholders to develop the most up-to-date and highest quality evidence related to ear and hearing care in all settings concerned with hearing and hearing loss,” Linda J. Hood, PhD, a professor in the department of hearing and speech sciences at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and a contributor to the WHO report, told Healio Primary Care.
She added that hundreds of activities throughout the world are taking place March 3 to “raise awareness and promote ear and hearing care.”
WHO. Full report. World Report on Hearing. Accessed February 25, 2021.
WHO. Press release. Launch of the World Report on Hearing. https://www.who.int/news-room/events/detail/2021/03/03/default-calendar/launch-of-the-world-report-on-hearing. Accessed February 25, 2021.