50pc of youth at risk of hearing loss, says WHO

ISLAMABAD: Nearly 50 per cent of people aged 12-35 years are at the risk of hearing loss due to prolonged and excessive exposure to loud sound, including music they listen to through personal audio devices.

Ahead of the World Hearing Day on March 3, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Telecommunication Union have issued a new international standard for the manufacture and use of these devices, which include smart phones and audio players, to make them safer for listening.

The theme for the day this year is ‘Check your hearing! because 1.1 billion young people are at risk of hearing loss’.

WHO has also decided to launch a free app on Sunday (today) that allows people to check their hearing level.

The ‘hear WHO app’ will be used to raise awareness about the importance of hearing, encourage people to check their hearing regularly and practice safe listening and allow health workers to check the hearing status of people in their communities.

Free app to help people check their hearing level being launched on World Hearing Day today

Director General Ministry of National Health Services Dr Asad Hafeez told Dawn that in Pakistan every year six million babies were born and around 75,000 of them had hearing problems.

“Though babies can be treated if problem is diagnosed by the age of six months, usually mothers come to know about it when their children become around two to three years old. At that age it becomes impossible to treat them,” he said.

Dr Hafeez said PC-I had been prepared to check every child who is born at any health facility. It is easy to screen children and then a machine is required to confirm that the baby is suffering from hearing impairment.“A summary has also been sent to the prime minister to provide free cochlear implants to children who are born in poor families,” he said.

WHO technical adviser Dr Maryam Mallick told Dawn that exposure to loud sounds for any length of time caused fatigue of the ear’s sensory cells. The result is temporary hearing loss or tinnitus (a ringing sensation in the ear).

A person enjoying a loud concert may come out experiencing ‘muffled’ hearing or tinnitus.

“The hearing improves as the sensory cells recover. When the exposure is particularly loud, regular or prolonged, it can cause permanent damage of the sensory cells and other structures, resulting in irreversible hearing loss. The high frequency range (high-pitched sound) is impacted first and may not be noticeable immediately. Continued exposure leads to progression of hearing loss, ultimately affecting speech comprehension and having a negative impact on the individual’s quality of life,” she said.

Noise-induced hearing loss can affect many aspects of life, including a person’s social and educational development and their ability to work. Children and adults who live in noisy environments may face increased psychological stress and anxiety,” Dr Mallick said.

She said in young children, noise-induced hearing loss hinders language acquisition. Learning disabilities, anxiety and attention-seeking behaviour’s are also common outcomes of hearing loss.

According to a statement of WHO, the widespread uptake of personal audio devices such as smart phones and MP3 players have added to this risk. Smart phone use in developing countries has grown from 45pc in 2013 to 54pc in 2015 and in developed countries this figure stands at 87pc.

“It is estimated that 50pc of those listening to music over their personal audio devices do so at levels that put their hearing at risk. Hearing loss which is not addressed poses an annual global cost of $750 billion. Overall, it is suggested that half of all cases of hearing loss can be prevented through public health measures,” it stated.

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