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UGMC calls for a universal screening programme to enhance Ear care

The University of Ghana Medical Center (UGMC) has called for a universal screening programme for early childhood to prevent hearing impairment in children.

Mrs Jemima Fynn, Chief Audiologist, Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, said ear and hearing problems were on the rise and as such the programme was important as the opportunistic type of screening currently being practised made both adults and children report late to the hospital.

‘Adults who also suffer from Ear problems report late to health facilities after nine to 10 years when the situation had already deteriorated,’ she added.

Mrs Fynn made the call at a lecture organised by the UGMC to observe the 2024 World Hearing Day and create awareness to prevent ear and hearing loss.

The World Hearing Day is observed on March 3, annually to share information and promote actions towards the prevention of hearing loss and improved hearing care.

The 2024 World Hearing Day is themed, ‘Changing Mindsets: Ear and Hearing Care for All, let’s Make it a Reality!’

day seeks to highlight the importance of changing mindsets about hearing loss within the public, civil society, and healthcare professionals.

Hearing impairment is the total or significant loss of hearing. It is the most frequent sensory impairment in humans with significant social and psychological implications caused by both environmental and genetic factors.

The impact of hearing loss on a child includes delayed speech, leading to poor literacy skills and cognition, which can lead to academic underachievement, social isolation, high risk for injuries, altered long-term unemployment opportunities, as well as altered mental health and low self-esteem.

In 2021 World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that more than 1.5 billion people experience some degree of hearing loss, of this, 430 million people are living with disabling hearing loss.

It projects that one in five people by 2050, that is 2.5 billion people, will have a form of hearing loss, possibly due to human and environmental dynamics. Of this nu
mber, 34 million, close to 10 per cent, will be children.

More than one billion young people put themselves at risk of hearing loss by exposure to loud music. A global cost of over USD 980 billion was incurred due to unaddressed hearing loss.

Mrs Fynn said the majority of those people were in the world’s low-income and middle-income countries- possibly due to the high level of disease occurrence and weaker maternal and child health services as compared to high-income countries.

She said the WHO wanted countries, including Ghana to treat ear care as a public health problem, which was why early identification and interventions across all ages were necessary.

She warned the public against the use of earbuds to remove wax from the ears, adding that it was unsafe and could lead to hearing impairment.

The ear wax, also referred to as cerumen, plays an important role in the ear by helping to lubricate, prevent infection, and trap dirt and insects from entering the ear.

The Audiologist said, currently the chall
enge the country faced which would have a grave effect in future, was noise exposure.

She said the frequent use of earpieces and headphones on high volumes for prolonged hours could cause hearing loss especially when the sound level is above 80 decibels.

It is, therefore, necessary for people who use earpieces to take breaks in between and keep the volume of the gadget below 60 per cent, she added.

Mrs Fynn urged the public to visit the hospital for screening from time to time to prevent hearing loss.

Dr Eunice Rabiatu Abdulai, Head of ENT Unit, Institutional Care Division of the Ghana Health Service, said hearing loss was not spiritual as it could be prevented and treated.

She urged the public not to stigmatise such people and called for more Audiologists and Speech Therapists to be employed across all regions to augment efforts at the teaching hospitals.

The test and treatment methods available in the country include AABR, OAE ABR and Cochlear implants which are expensive.

Ms Abiba Sumaila, the Head
of Audiology Unit UGMC, speaking on the role of the Audiologist however, assured clients that the unit would soon start Cochlear implant training as the equipment to aid this intervention would arrive in the hospital soon.

‘At the moment, we can refer cases, review clients reports and facilitate rehabilitation to enhance care,’ she added.

Source: Ghana News Agency