'Drastic increase’ of hearing loss patients in 2023

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN: Patients suffering from mild to moderate bilateral hearing loss showed a ‘drastic increase’ from 540 people in 2022 to 686 in 2023, said Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Mohd Isham Jaafar in his message for World Hearing Day 2024.

The minister said this includes 121 children under the age of 12, adding that 61 patients experienced severe to very severe hearing loss, 59 of them children aged 12 and above.

The minister said they also recorded 180 new patients diagnosed with mild to moderate hearing loss involving one ear, compared to 162 new patients the previous year.

Twenty seven people, including five children below the age of 12, were identified to have severe to very severe hearing loss in one ear, he said.

Dr Mohd Isham said hearing loss is also referred to invisible disability due to lack of physical symptoms, stigma in the community and often ignored by policymakers.

“World Hearing Day, which falls every March 3 and celebrated around the world, serves as a programme for advocacy, raising awareness and promoting ear care and hearing among the community,” said the minister.

“Hearing plays an important role in communication, understand the environment and maintain safety. By having a good hearing, one can hear and understand people’s conversations, and provide the right response. Hearing can also help in the detection of sounds that indicates danger,” he said.

The minister said the theme for this year’s celebration is ‘Changing Mindsets: Let’s Make Ear and Hearing Care a Reality for All’.

The theme focuses on the importance of ear and hearing care, and supporting access to hearing health care services.

“The theme emphasises early detection, prevention and treatment of hearing loss, as well as the importance of addressing social and economic impact of hearing loss to individuals and communites around the world.”

The minister said that one of the vital efforts taken by the ministry is the establishment of the Newborn Hearing Screening Clinic at the Suri Seri Begawan Hospital in Kuala Belait.

The clinic started its operation in June 2023, and is run by nurses who received training in screening for congenital hearing problems, allowing for early intervention such as hearing aids, speech and language therapy as well as consultation and treatment from paediatricians and otorhinolaryngologists.

“At the same time, the ministry launched an aural care training programme for nurses in the community in February 2023. This training programme is expected to further improve ear care services in the country,” he said.

The minister encouraged the public to take measures in protecting their hearing, which includes avoiding excessive noise, staying away from harmful chemicals that could impact hearing and seek treatment if they are experiencing hearing problems. – Borneo Bulletin/ANN

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