The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared March 3 every year as World Hearing Day (WHD), to raise awareness of ear and hearing care and to prevent deafness globally.
The theme for 2021’s WHD is “Hearing care for ALL! Screen. Rehabilitate. Communicate”.
One of the five senses of human beings is hearing. The sense of hearing plays an important role in helping to understand our world.
The ear is the primary organ responsible for hearing. Communication refers to all means by which information is transmitted between a sender and a receiver.
Often, when people think about communication, they think about talking and listening.
In listening, our hearing picks up more than just words. It also picks up more information to add to what is said, such as, the volume, tone of voice, pitch, modulation, intonation, pace and more.
Hearing is the backbone of verbal communication and is important at all stages of life.
Hearing loss is one of the causes of communication disabilities in children.
Globally, the number of people affected with untreated or unaddressed hearing loss and related ear diseases is unacceptable, according to the WHO.
In Ghana, apart from the treatment of common ear diseases covered by the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), all other care related to hearing and communication is borne financially by the Ghanaian, many of whom cannot afford the cost.
In some countries ,however, health insurance caters for ear and hearing care and many, if not all, are able to access such services.
There is the need for policy makers to integrate person-centred ear and hearing care within the national health plans, for all to access.
To prevent hearing loss across the life course, there is the need for timely action.
Neonatal screening must be added to the routine checks for all newborn babies. Such timely intervention will go a long way to minimise the impact of the hearing loss.
To care for and protect our hearing, endeavour to have your hearing checked regularly and encourage loved ones to do same.
When one encounters persons with a hearing loss, avoid the situation where everyone talks at once and rather encourage people to speak in turns. Reduce background noise or move to a quieter environment. Include a person with hearing loss in all activities.
Speak clearly and at a slower pace, include gestures and avoid shouting. Encourage the person with hearing loss to talk about his or her hearing loss and to be an advocate for persons with hearing loss by representing them in making demands from available healthcare services and for the setting up of hearing-friendly accessible public places.
The provision of hearing aids and cochlear implants by the government as part of healthcare services will go a long way to limit the impact of hearing loss.
Schools, churches and various organisations should consider equal opportunities of employment for people with hearing losses and sign language instructors to enable an inclusive environment and nation.
The training of professionals involved in the care of hearing loss and related ear diseases must be of great interest to policy makers if all Ghanaians are to get universal health coverage.
Professionals involved in the screening, treatment and rehabilitation of hearing loss and related ear diseases include otolaryngologists, audiologists and speech and language therapists.
Fortunately, there are training programmes for these professionals in Ghana. The Ghana Health Service must employ these professionals to ensure all Ghanaians can afford their services. Hearing care for all! Screen. Rehabilitate. Communicate”.
The writers are speech and language therapists.