The World Health Organization (WHO) is celebrating March 3rd as International Ear Care Day. WHO has identified a need for Member States to develop plans and programs integrating prevention and management of hearing loss into the primary health care system of their countries. In support of this, the European Federation of Hard of Hearing People (EFHOH), The European Association of Hearing Aid Professionals (AEA), and the European Hearing Instrument Manufacturers Assn (EHIMA), released a joint statement that said:

Sixteen percent (16%) of the European population—or 80 million people—are suffering from hearing loss, of which at least 30 million are undetected cases. Besides being a problematic condition in itself (communication difficulties, job challenges, social isolation), hearing loss is often associated with a number of other diseases, including:

  • Obesity. Extremely obese women with a BMI over 40 have 25% more risk for hearing problems according to Curhan et al (2013);
  • Diabetes. People with diabetes are twice as likely to suffer hearing loss according to Bainbridge et al (2008),
  • Dementia. The likelihood of developing dementia increases with the severity of hearing loss according to a study by Lin et al (2011); and
  • Depression. The risk for hard-of-hearing people of developing depressive symptoms is reduced by 50% if they use hearing aids according to the SHARE study (2011).

In the light of the increased risk for hard-of-hearing people of suffering from other diseases, EFHOH, AEA, and EHIMA are calling on the EU Commission to detail policies and initiatives at EU level to support systematic screening of hearing loss as part of medical check-ups in adults [age 55+] in the Member States.

Additionally, because of the increased risk of multi-morbidity associated with their condition, hard-of-hearing people have particular needs in terms of integrated care. The three organizations are therefore asking the Commission to indicate progress made at the EU level to promote integrated care—in particular in the framework of the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing. It says that initiatives in this respect would also be consistent with the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

The costs of not doing anything are rising in parallel with the aging of the European populations, says the joint statement. The three organizations advocate for introducing mandatory hearing screenings (eg, in the age 55+ population), as well as promoting integrated hearing healthcare policies as sound investments for governments and health insurance companies—and for the 80-million hearing impaired Europeans.

Source: EFHOH, AEA, and EHIMA