A summary of the literature on global hearing impairment: current status and priorities for action.
BACKGROUND: Hearing loss (HL) and deafness are global issues that affect at least 278 million people worldwide. Two thirds of the people who have HL worldwide live in developing countries. Importantly, it is estimated that 50% of this HL can be prevented. In developing countries, funding for prevention, early detection, and rehabilitative programs is severely limited, and therefore, agencies must compete against priorities to treat life-threatening, pandemic diseases such as human immunodeficiency virus, malaria, and tuberculosis. Delays in diagnosis are common, and social attitudes, local customs, and cultural bias are contributing factors. OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this review is to gain an understanding of the prevalence of HL in the developing world and to focus attention on the growing need for both prevention and effective treatment programs. A second goal is to use this information to suggest priorities and approaches to address these problems worldwide. DATA SOURCES: The data were compiled from a review of the literature on the global impacts of hearing impairment and recently published reports on the prevalence and cause of hearing impairment in developing nations. CONCLUSION: The high prevalence of HL in the developing world is due to a variety of factors, including lack of widespread comprehensive immunization programs and other medical care, and inadequate funds for intervention once HL is identified. International organizations, governments, and nongovernment organizations have many opportunities to prevent and treat HL through cost-effective means.
Tucci, D; Merson, MH; Wilson, BS
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