The World Health Organisation South-East Asia Region has said that it is committed to addressing hearing loss and curing ear diseases.

According to a press release issued by WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia based in New Delhi, more than 400 million people in the region, including Nepal, live with hearing loss, accounting for just over 25 per cent of the global burden. Over 100 million people in the region require hearing rehabilitation services, which is expected to reach a total of at least 185 million by 2050.

"Unaddressed hearing loss leads to reduced productivity and is estimated to cost nearly 1 trillion international dollars globally, including 110 billion in the region.

WHO will continue to support all the countries in the region to prevent and address hearing loss, in line with the findings of the first ever WHO World report on hearing, released yesterday, on World Hearing Day," said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO regional director for South-East Asia.

According to her, hearing loss is preventable throughout the lifecourse through effective public health interventions. In children, almost 60 per cent of hearing loss is preventable via measures such as immunisation, improved maternal and neonatal care, and early management of otitis media. In adults, legislation on noise control and safe listening, and surveillance of ototoxicity can help maintain hearing trajectories and reduce the potential for hearing loss.

"Identification is the first step in addressing hearing loss and ear diseases and must therefore be promoted as part of the region's primary health care approach to achieving universal health coverage, which has been a flagship priority since 2014. Clinical screening at strategic points in life ensure that these conditions can be identified at the earliest possible stage," Dr Kshetrapal Singh said in the press release.

Recent technological advances, including accurate and easy-touse tools, can identify ear disease and hearing loss at any age, in clinical or community settings, and with limited training and resources.

Once diagnosed, early intervention is the key to successful outcomes.

Medical and surgical treatment can cure most ear diseases, potentially reversing associated hearing loss. When hearing loss is irreversible, rehabilitation can ensure that those affected, and society at large, avoid adverse consequences.

"Increased investments aimed at tackling the problem are needed.

To build a post-COVID recovery that is healthier and fairer, countries in the region must prioritise investments in cost-effective interventions that will benefit people with hearing loss and bring financial gains to all sections of the society," she said.

A version of this article appears in the print on March 5, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.