Each year countries across the globe dedicate 3 March to World Hearing Day to shed light on a medical condition that devastate the lives of many, although through awareness and early intervention it can be largely minimised.
In 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the immediate need for action that would save many countries the cost of dealing with this problem if tackled in its early stages.
The WHO estimates that 32 million children across the globe suffer from disabling hearing loss. Not addressing the problem early on has cost the world 750 billion dollars.
According to the Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal, it is estimated that around 4.5 million people in Egypt (around 5% of the population) are living with partial or complete hearing loss.
Children make-up around 130,000 of the total estimate.
Hearing impairment in a child affects their skills of speaking, engaging in society and academic achievement and the ripple effect resonates in the child's family and the society at large immensely. Most of hearing impairment cases are in poorer governorates
The cochlear implant procedure is considered most effective when performed between the ages of one and five.
Recent endeavors to save children
The last five years saw intensive efforts from civil societies NGOs like Misr El Kheir, and Egyptian Medical Universities who collaborated with private sector's MED-El to launch campaigns of awareness and convoys to inspect the hearing abilities of kids in various governorates all over the country, including in Asyut, Qena and Aswan.
The Egyptian Medical Universities also signed a protocol with The Health Insurance to build rehabilitation centres and audiology units in such hospitals, including five rehabilitation centres to be built in the next three years. The role of rehabilitation for children and parents was brought to the forefront as well, highlighting its importance after cochlear implant procedures.
Many celebrities have taken a stand to help shed light on the importance of the cause and raise awareness regarding early detection. Among them are prominent actor Mohamed Sobhi and star Yousra Ellozy, who bravely shared the story of her daughter suffering from the ailment.
On World Hearing Loss Day, Professor Mohamed El-Shazly, the renowned cochlear implant surgeon, commented on the statistics published by private sector's hearing implants provider MED-EL – which includes specialised ENT doctors -- stating that 3000 children in Egypt require cochlear implants on yearly basis.
“The numbers are still shockingly high but Egypt has come a long way,” El Shazly explained.
"We went from zero knowledge about the hearing loss and rehabilitation process, to an active civil society, and engaged journalists working towards education and awareness. The study conveys that there is still more work for us to do together, to defeat the epidemic in the country," he concluded.