Features  |  Health  

Experts alert to rising cases of hearing loss in Nigeria

By Chukwuma Muanya, Assistant Editor (Head Insight Team, Science and Technology)   |   30 June 2016   |   1:36 am
An Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) surgeon observing a patient

An Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) surgeon observing a patient

• Hearing aid use associated with improved cognitive function
• MTN Foundation delivers modern devices to challenged in selected states

Experts on Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) have alerted to the rising cases of ear and hearing-related problems in Nigeria even as they recommended how to reduce the burden and efforts geared towards addressing the problem.

Country Director, International Center for Prevention of Deafness and Rehabilitation of Hearing Impaired Persons (ICPDRHIP) and graduate of public health from the University of Liverpool, United Kingdom, Dr. Eneche Audu, told journalists that about 11.39 million Nigerians have hearing impairment.

Audu said: “Working with a German organisation and the National Health Care, using the World Health Organisation (WHO) protocol, the prevalence rate for deafness in Nigeria is about 6.7 per cent of the population in Nigeria. It is quite high, because it shows we have millions with hearing impairment in the country.”

Audu further said that, according to recent data from the WHO, over five per cent of the world’s population that is 360 million people have disabling hearing loss including 328 million adults and 32 million children.

Hearing loss, also known as hearing impairment, is a partial or total inability to hear. A deaf person has little to no hearing. Hearing loss may occur in one or both ears. In children hearing problems can affect the ability to learn language and in adults it can cause work related difficulties.

According to Dr. Olusola Ayodele Sogebi of the ENT Unit, Department of Surgery, College of Health Sciences, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Sagamu, Ogun State, hearing loss is one of the most prevalent chronic conditions in adults worldwide and it is classified as conductive, sensorineural or mixed in type.

Ayodele in a study titled “Assessment of the risk factors for hearing loss in adult Nigerian population” said conductive hearing loss has readily identifiable causes and is easily amenable to treatment but sensorineural hearing loss has more grievous consequences on the individual.

According to the study published in the Nigerian Medical Journal, good hearing function is particularly required for adults in the working population who are exposed to noise and other challenging listening situations at work.

Ayodele noted: “Research has shown that hearing loss is associated with a greater need for recovery after work. Such a need for recovery may increase the request for sick leave, suggesting that hearing loss may have adverse economical consequences. Furthermore the likelihood of the hearing impairment to continue into older age after retirement is a concern.

“Progressive bilateral sensorineural hearing loss, which starts from the middle age and continues into the older years is characteristic of age-related hearing loss (ARHL). ARHL is the most common sensory impairment associated with ageing.

“The public health expert said global incidence and prevalence of ARHL are projected to increase with the increase in average life expectancy. Age-related hearing loss is not reversible and it imparts on the health of elderly persons with adverse consequences, which include physical dependence, domestic accidents, emotional and psychological disturbances; in addition to limitation in social interactions.”

Ayodele said hearing aids, cochlear implants, assistive listening devices and other aural rehabilitation methods are the means of treatment. “Advances in technology have refined hearing aids to be more comfortable with better amplification, which should enable patients to receive assistance. Unfortunately many sufferers of hearing impairment particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, cannot afford the cost of these treatments.”

However, the MTN Foundation as part of its contribution to improving well-being of Nigerians is set to commence another round of distribution of hearing aids to beneficiaries across Nigeria.

The MTN Foundation recently took delivery of 1,500 top of the range hearing aid devices, under its Hearing Aids Support Project (HASP), which were to be distributed in six states across the country.

The HASP is designed to provide hearing aids to hearing impaired persons, including children from six months old. The beneficiaries would be from Akwa Ibom, Benue, Lagos, Bauchi, Katsina and Anambra.

Meanwhile, new research indicates that older adults who used a hearing aid performed significantly better on cognitive tests than those who did not use a hearing aid, despite having poorer hearing.

A study conducted by researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) found that older adults who used a hearing aid performed significantly better on cognitive tests than those who did not use a hearing aid, despite having poorer hearing.

The study was published online in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

The researchers also found that cognitive function was directly related to hearing ability in participants who did not use a hearing aid.

More than half of adults over age 75 have hearing loss, yet less than 15 percent of the hearing impaired use a hearing aid device.

Previous studies have shown that the hearing-impaired elderly have a higher incidence of fall- and accident-related death, social isolation, and dementia than those without hearing loss. Studies have also demonstrated that hearing aid use can improve the social, functional, and emotional consequences of hearing loss.

Audu said: “The distribution of these devices to beneficiaries in these states will no doubt bring succour and enable them live a normal and more fulfilling life.

“We, at the ICPDRHIP, are happy to contribute our resources in conjunction with MTN Foundation and the Government of these six states to help reduce the number in the little way we can.”

Executive Secretary, MTN Foundation, Ms. Nonny Ugboma, said, “MTN Foundation is immensely committed to the inclusion of hearing impaired people into the society and enhancing their participation in social and economic activities. We are really pleased to champion this project as it enables us to compliment government’s efforts to help restore, hearing to people with hearing disabilities across Nigeria.”

The Hearing Aid Support Project is one of the many MTNF initiatives that provides appliances and aids to persons with disability. Prominent among these initiatives is the Disability Support Project (DSP) that provides wheelchairs, crutches, Braille machines and other mobility aids to persons with disability across Nigeria. This year, the Foundation has already distributed hearing assessment forms and is set to conduct audiometric test for shortlisted potential beneficiaries. Following this test, devices will be distributed to the successful beneficiaries.

Audu said: “MTN Foundation has being the only known body that has come out to really help persons with hearing impairment to be reintegrated back into the society and have better quality of life. Yes, the input has brought a paradigm shift, which is positively changing the narratives about hearing impairment in Nigeria.

“In the first five phases of the disability support project, MTN Foundation has given out 1,500 hearing aids. We are presently on the sixth phase and the Foundation is planning to give out double of what they have donated in the past five years.

“For those that are not deaf, I will advice that they take care of their ears because they may not know how important it is until they lose it. For parents and families that have deaf persons, please be patient with them because it may be very challenging.”

Audu said the major challenge for the deaf and presently operated with the MTN Foundation, is information dissemination. “For instance, when forms are out for our programmes, we try to communicate with the deaf to inform them about the locations where they can access the forms. Unfortunately, since they cannot hear, someone must hear for them and that is a major challenge.”

He added: “Also, the lukewarm attitude of some government agencies who ought to be our partners in reaching out to the deaf is not helping matters. The bureaucratic bottleneck is chocking. Because of this challenge, we have created two channels of distribution- the government agencies and the non-governmental agencies. We have also reduce adverts is the newspapers because it has not really yielded the desired results due to the high level of illiteracy among our target audience..”

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