Now hear this: World Hearing Day, Friday, 3 March 2023

I had frequent ear infections as a child of 6 and 7 years of age in the early 1930s. As was the practice of the day in my native Hungary, the otolaryngologist specialist arrived on his bicycle to our apartment, carrying his medical bag. I was made to sit up in my bed. He sat next to me with his instruments. Looking in my ear he said, “hang on!” and in a second he punctured my eardrum to let a drop or two of pussy fluid escape. I felt immediate relief from my earache. That was over 86 years ago. 

This year on World Hearing Day (3 March 2023), the World Health Organization will highlight the importance of integrating ear and hearing care into primary care and the role of general practitioners in key aspects of hearing health. 

Four key messages:

  • Ear and hearing problems are among the most common complaints in the community.
  • Over 60% can be identified and addressed at the primary care level.
  • Integration of ear and hearing care into primary care services is possible through training and capacity building at this level.
  • Such integration will benefit people and help countries move toward the goal of universal health coverage.

The WHO is also launching a primary ear and hearing care training manual for health workers and general practitioners. 

A person who is not able to hear as well as those with normal hearing (such as hearing a whisper within a radius of 4.5 m at 20–25 dB loudness) is said to have hearing loss. Hearing loss at any level is a major worldwide problem. Over 5% of the world’s population—something like 430 million adults and 34 million children—require care to address their hearing problems. According to the WHO, nearly 80% of people with disabling hearing loss live in low- or middle-income countries, and 25% of those over 60 years of age are affected by troublesome hearing loss. When unaddressed, hearing loss impacts many aspects of life. In economically developing countries, children with hearing loss or deafness often do not receive schooling and adults with hearing loss have a high unemployment rate. Hearing loss anywhere in the world often leads to social isolation, loneliness, stigmatization, issues with physical and emotional health and social skills, and problems with self-esteem and work performance. 

The WHO encourages professionals in the hearing health field to organize events to advocate integration of ear and hearing care into primary care as well raise awareness in communities about problems related to hearing loss.

Let’s hear it for the WHO!
—George Szasz, CM, MD

Suggested reading
Audiology Worldnews. GPs in focus when World Hearing Day 2023 spotlights primary care involvement. 20 September 2022. Accessed 1 March 2023.

World Health Organization. Fact sheets: Deafness and hearing loss. 27 February 2023. Accessed 1 March 2023.

This post has not been peer reviewed by the BCMJ Editorial Board.

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