by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition
Each year the World Health Organization sponsors World Hearing Day, selecting a theme for that year’s event. Next year’s World Hearing Day on March 3, 2021, will mark the launch of the World Report on Hearing, and will be an opportunity to raise awareness of this topic among policymakers and the public. The theme for next year will be “Hearing Care for ALL!”
The WHO notes that:
- Good hearing and communication are important at all stages of life.
- Hearing loss and related ear diseases can be avoided through preventative actions such as: protection against loud sounds, good ear care practices, and immunization.
- Hearing loss and related ear diseases can be addressed when it is identified in a timely manner and appropriate care sought.
- People at risk of hearing loss should check their hearing regularly.
- People having hearing loss or related ear diseases should seek care from a health care provider.
Our focus has been on prevention of hearing loss, not on treatment. In public health, prevention is almost always cheaper and better than treatment.
Treatment of hearing loss is currently limited to hearing aids or newer personal sound amplification products. Unfortunately, according to the World Bank approximately 10% of the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day, and 20% on less than $3.20 a day. Even the least expensive hearing aid is unaffordable for people living in poverty, and even if they were given one, batteries and maintenance would be problems.
When one is struggling to earn enough money to have food to eat, prevention of hearing loss is low down on the priority list. And in under-resourced populations, infections may be a greater cause of hearing difficulties than noise exposure. The ultimate solution will be elimination of poverty, but that may be a long time coming.
In the meantime, for those of us with adequate resources, remember that if it sounds loud, it’s too loud.
Avoid loud noise, wear hearing protection if you can’t, or face hearing loss later in life.
Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.