International Ear Care day 2014

The International Ear Care day was the outcome of the Beijing Declaration made during the 1st International Conference on Prevention and Rehabilitation of Hearing Loss in 2007. The date ‘3 March’ was selected due to the similarity of the figures 3.3 with the shape of our ears. The day is observed with a designated theme, decided by WHO in collaboration with its partners, collaborating centres and experts. The ‘day’ provides a unique opportunity to work together to draw the attention of media, policy-makers, administrators, health professionals and the general public towards the cause of hearing loss. By observing this day, we can all help create a global movement, which will compel others to give ear and hearing care the attention it deserves and to persons with hearing loss, their due respect.

The 2014 theme is Ear care can avoid hearing loss. At least half of all cases of hearing loss are avoidable through primary prevention, including healthy ear care practices.

Dr Shelly Chadha, Technical Officer, Prevention of Blindness and Deafness, World Health Organization, Geneva, commented, “In order to raise the profile of ear and hearing care on the global health agenda, all of us: ear and hearing care professionals; nongovernmental organizations; collaborating centres; persons with hearing loss and their caregivers, must be a part of this movement. As members of the health profession, we dedicate ourselves every day to caring for our patients and their wellbeing. By devoting one day to the public health aspect of our chosen field, we can reach many more and be a part of a worldwide effort to raise awareness and resources for ear and hearing care.”

In 2012, WHO released estimates which suggest that 360 million persons across the world live with disabling hearing loss. Amongst persons above 65 years of age, one out of three is reported to have hearing loss, yet less than 3% of persons receive the hearing aids they require.

Despite the fact that two thirds of people with hearing loss live in developing countries, services for hearing care remain elusive where they are most needed. The number of ENT surgeons per million ranges from 0 to 4 in low-income countries as compared to 9-178 in high-income countries. In 18 countries of sub-Saharan Africa, there is an average of less than 1 ENT surgeon per 100 000 persons. Moreover, the current global health priorities for developing countries have yet to pay attention to hearing loss. The overall low level of awareness about ear diseases and hearing loss at all levels within the society adds to the growing burden.

This blog post is based on the Editorial that Dr Chadha wrote for the March issue of The Journal of Laryngology & Otology, the full article can be read free of charge here.

Find out more about the WHO International Ear Care Day here.


Turn down the Volume? An examination of the effects of nightclubs on hearing


There is a growing body of evidence that suggests excessive noise levels in nightclubs have an adverse effect on hearing, and may ultimately be responsible for noise-induced hearing loss.

A study by researchers at the University of Birmingham found that although students didn’t want to alter their attendance, the majority would rather see noise limits reduced to safe limits, contrary to the widely held preconception that high volume levels in nightclubs are demanded by young people.

The hearing of all employees in the music and entertainment sector is now protected by The Control of Noise at Work Regulations (2005), which require employers to prevent or reduce risks to employees’ hearing in the workplace when exposed to noise levels above 85 dB. However, this law does not apply to members of the public attending nightclubs, as it is presumed they are making an informed decision to attend such venues.

This study investigated the prevalence of symptoms related to noise-induced hearing loss that were experienced by students after attending nightclubs. It also aimed to explore students’ awareness of the association between noise-induced hearing loss and nightclub attendance, and examine their attitudes towards this.

A questionnaire was distributed to students entering or leaving the University of Birmingham Medical School over a 5-day period during March 2012, with a total of 357 individuals completing the questionnaire, with almost half the students attending a nightclub at least once per week.

Of those students surveyed in the present study (excluding those who never attended nightclubs and those with pre-existing hearing problems), 88% had experienced transient tinnitus after attending a nightclub. This finding is important because transient tinnitus can also be a precursor to other noise-induced hearing loss symptoms, including permanent tinnitus, hyperacusis or irreversible hearing loss.

The majority of students in the sample population (90%) were aware that current nightclub noise levels are potentially damaging to hearing. However, most students who attended nightclubs (73%) reported that they would not alter their attendance, despite being told that the noise levels could lead to permanent hearing loss. Nonetheless, 70% of nightclub attendees agreed that noise levels should be limited to volumes that are not damaging to hearing.

Mr Oliver Johnson, one of the paper’s authors, commented. “This is encouraging for policy makers, as noise levels could potentially be lowered below the threshold for hearing damage without nightclub attendance being significantly compromised. The implementation of relevant legislation could therefore potentially reduce the long-term risks of irreversible hearing loss in this young age group without damaging the nightclub industry.”

The study also demonstrated that 87% of students with normal hearing had never received information about noise-induced hearing loss or had earplugs recommended in the nightclub setting. The findings and those of other research groups indicate that young people attending nightclubs are at high risk of noise-induced hearing loss, and it is therefore of the utmost importance that they should be provided with adequate information regarding the potential damage that excessive music levels in nightclubs may cause.

Mr Johnson added, “We believe the current assumption implied by legislation, namely that nightclub attendees are consenting to the risks of hearing damage, is spurious, as the majority of young people in nightclubs are likely to be unaware of these risks.”

The full paper “British university students’ attitudes towards noise-induced hearing loss caused by nightclub attendance” is published in The Journal of Laryngology & Otology and can be read free of charge for a limited time here.

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