Don't Let Hearing Loss Limit You
The 3rd of March marked World Hearing Day, a date dedicated to raising awareness around how to prevent deafness and hearing loss and also to promote better ear and hearing care. The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared this year's theme as "Don't let hearing loss limit you. Hearing for life!" One in five people may suffer from hearing loss and the WHO estimates that many more are at risk of permanent hearing damage, with more than a billion students putting their hearing in danger because of unsafe listening practices.
Deafness and hearing loss are regarded as invisible disabilities which are not noticeable to others and there is a general lack of insight and many misconceptions surrounding these conditions. People with hearing impairments are often perceived to be cold, unfriendly, antisocial or even unintelligent. Education and awareness are vital in order to deal with these false perceptions and to ensure that individuals with hearing disabilities are treated with understanding and respect.
Other challenges faced by those with hearing loss, particularly in South Africa, include lack of access to suitable healthcare, lack of schools that can accommodate learners with hearing impairments as well as the high costs of assistive devices such as hearing aids.
Many people live with undiagnosed hearing loss and do not even realise that they are missing out on certain sounds and words. World Hearing Day helps to highlight the importance of early identification and intervention for hearing loss. Everyone should check their hearing from time to time, especially those who are at a higher risk of hearing loss such as adults above 50 years, those working in noisy places, those listening to music at high volumes for long periods of time and those experiencing ear problems. Many audiology practices and clinics offer free hearing tests and there are also a number of online sites as well as apps you can download which allow you to check your hearing.
Awareness, regular screening, early intervention and good hearing health can help to ensure that people with hearing loss are able to achieve their full potential and participate effectively in an informed and inclusive society.