Hear the future and prepare for it

Dr Rajiv Sharma
It is 3 March today.  Doesn’t the figure 3-3 remind you of the pair of ears on human face? No wonder that the world this day celebrates the importance of ear care under the auspices of WHO.
In the year 2007, aninternational conference was held in Beijing, China, for Prevention and Rehabilitation of Hearing Impairment ‘to raise awareness and promote ear and hearing care across the world.’ The day was chosen to commemorate the initiative.  Initially, it was called the International Ear Care Day and from 2016, it has been re-designated as the ‘World Hearing Day’.


Each year since 2014, the world health body chooses a specific theme in furtherance of the  objective. That year, the theme was ‘Ear Care Can Avoid Hearing Loss’. In the successive years, the themes have been ‘Make Listening Safe’ (2015), ‘Childhood Hearing Loss – Act Now, Here is Now’ (2016) and ‘Action for Hearing Loss (2017).  The theme chosen for the current year is ‘Hear the Future’.
Hearing loss-anenormous problem
The ear is a marvellous organ in its complexity and delicateness.  Any damage – whether through disease, physical injury, exposure to noise over a long period, side-effects of certain drugs, or ageing – can cause this beautiful organ to malfunction, leading to hearing loss.
Hearing loss is the most frequent sensory deficit in humans (more frequent than visual impairment), affecting over 250 million people the world over. In India the statistics are staggering. 63 million (6.3%) suffer from significant haring loss.  Of them 32%have profound hearing loss(no hearing at all) and39% havesevere hearing disability(that is they can hear only shouted sounds). 9% of urban and 10% of rural population have hearing problems. About 7%children are born with hearing loss. The magnitude of milder degrees of hearing impairment and one-ear hearing loss would be much more.These figures are from National Sample Survey 58th round(2002) survey. One can imagine the increase in number of deaf persons in the 16years since then.
Yet, the malady goes unnoticed – and untreated – merely because of the general tendency of the people to neglect minor hearing losses. Callousness of the health administrators not to accord the importance it deserves aggravates the problem.
Hearing loss cannot be wished away as a minor disability.  On the contrary, it leads to incompetence to understand speech and sound, decreased capability to communicate, delay in language development, economic and educational backwardness, social isolation and stigmatisation.  The problem is no doubt enormous and we must have a fair idea how to tackle it.
What casues deafness
Let us begin at the beginning.  In the new-born, the causative factors of deafness are (i) family history, (ii) infections suffered by the mother during the pregnancy, (iii) premature birth (iv) lack of oxygen at the time of birth and (v) severe jaundice at the time of birth.
Among the children and adults, deafness may be caused by (i) infections such as meningitis, measles, mumps and ear infections with discharge, (ii) use of drugs like Gentamycin, Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Naproxen and diuratics like Lasix, (iii) injury to the head or ear, (iv) exposure to loud sound in any setting, (v) listening through personal audio devices at unsafe levels and (vi) deposits of wax and foreign bodies in the ear.
Older people may suffer hearing loss because of the normal aging process.  Besides, highblood pressure, Diabetes, loud sound and some medicines may also cause hearing loss in them.
How to detect hearingloss
In infants and children, detection of hearing loss is somewhat tricky as they may not be able to express themselves accurately.  Here are a few indications to suggest that a child suffers from hearing impairment:
* Does not respond to sounds
* Cannot understand properly what you say to him/her
* Has a delayed or improper speech development
* Has a discharge from the ear
* Suffers repeated episodes of pain or blockage of ear.
In adults, hearing loss is manifest in several ways. Such people are prone to ask you to repeat yourself.  They would like the volume of radio/TV to be raised sufficiently higher than normal and request you as well to speak to them in a louder voice.  You notice nevertheless that they have missed parts of what you spoke to them. The hearing-impaired also complain of a ringing in their ears.
Prevention of hearingloss
It is a cliché, but it is true.  Prevention is better than cure. Protect your ears from loud sounds by means of ear plugs. Check your hearing regularly. Use hearing devices as indicated by the manufacturer. in the earin the earDo not insert any object in the ear. Do not swim in dirty water. Do not hit or slap a child. If a child is inattentive in the class, it may be because of hearing loss. Consult a doctor.
Yes, do consult a doctor if you have pain or other signs of infectionin the ear. Always ask your doctor if a particular medicine you are taking is safe for your ears.
Like sight, hearing too is Creator’s superb blessing. Cherish it if you want to enjoy the sweet-and-sour melody of life.
(The author is the Divisional Nodal Officer of the National Program for Prevention & Control of Deafness, NPPCD.)


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