It is estimated that more than five percent of the world’s population, or about 360 million people, have disabling hearing loss. If left untreated, hearing loss can present numerous challenges for those individuals in essentially all aspects of their lives—not just their health, but also their economic and societal status.
As global citizens, we have the responsibility to help those with hearing loss and other disabilities to get appropriate treatment and minimize the barriers that can prevent them from being active members of society. This is the goal of the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD), which takes place on December 3 annually. The event aims to promote the rights and wellbeing of those with disabilities in all spheres of society and development, while increasing awareness of the difficulties they face.
Removing barriers, increasing access to hearing health
The theme for this year’s IDPD is “transformation towards sustainable and resilient society for all.” This means that no one should be left behind because of their disabilities. At the same time, we must find ways to strengthen the resilience of society to better account for those with disabilities. So, what can be done to help those with hearing loss?
Recognizing the pressures that hearing loss puts on Europe’s health and social care systems, Health First Europe, an alliance of patients, healthcare workers, academics, and healthcare experts, offers numerous suggestions on what society can do to address hearing loss: http://healthfirsteurope.eu. While intended for the members of the European Union, the actions presented are applicable the world over. These include:
- Sharing best practices on preventative measures and early screening programs to identify and diagnose hearing loss
- Promote access to hearing devices, such as hearing aids
- Improve access to information for people with hearing disabilities regarding public facilities and audio-visual media services
- Increase access to professional hearing care, including diagnosis, rehabilitation, service, and maintenance
- Drive awareness of hearing loss as a cause of social isolation, depression, and deteriorating mental and physical health
- Invest in research on hearing loss, prevention, and rehabilitation
Helping those with hearing loss
As hearing loss continues to impact an ever-growing number of people around the world, it is important to ensure these individuals have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. In honor of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, think about what you can do to help those with hearing loss get the treatment and support they need.