Listen up: Ear health should not be neglected, says Health Ministry


KOTA KINABALU: There is a need for more ear health screening and awareness programmes in preparation for the country entering an ageing society, says the Health Ministry.

Its Medical Development Division director Datuk Dr Mohd Azman Yacob said hearing loss could not be avoided with age, and the number of those suffering from hearing problems would only go up with Malaysia slowly becoming an aging nation.

He said recipients of the Skim PeKa B40 aid – a programme set up in 2019 with an aim to sustain the healthcare needs of low-income people – saw a rise each year.

"The programme recorded a total of 13,218 recipients, with the largest benefactors (4,449 people or 33.65%) being those aged 70 and above,” he said at the World Hearing Day celebration at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital here on Tuesday (March 5).

Dr Mohd Azman said as per the World Health Organisation (WHO) record, one in 20 adults and four in 1,000 newborns encountered hearing problems.

The situation is worsening with the organisation estimating that one out of four people would have hearing issues by 2050.

With this in mind, he said it is important for government agencies to work closely with private sectors in tackling hearing issues and reach out to a wider audience.

Dr Mohd Azman commended ongoing efforts by hospitals and private sectors in carrying out hearing screenings and reinforced the government’s commitment in this effort.

“Malaysia has 83% of hearing test coverage on babies in 2023, compared to just 60% in 2022.

“I hope we will be able to achieve a 95% screening rate by 2025," he said, adding hospitals which provide the tests have also increased from 48 to 61.

Sabah Health Department director Datuk Dr Asits Sanna said the state achieved a hearing screening coverage rate of 82% last year.

“This is an achievement to be proud of and I thank everyone involved in making this a success, especially the Women and Children’s Hospital in Likas,” he said.

He said Sabah would appreciate and welcome any assistance and support from the Health Ministry in the effort to improve the quality of health and medicine in the state.

He said the department had applied for more screening and diagnostic equipment, as well as workers in the related field.

If approved, he said this additional equipment and extra hands would provide tremendous help in hearing screenings of newborns and other outreach programmes.

"We have asked for an additional 2,098 nurses to be sent over to Sabah," he added.

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