March 2019  WHO Europe

Dr Melita Vujnovic

Dr Melita Vujnovic, WHO Representative in Russian Federation, undertaking a hearing check for World Hearing Day 2019.

The theme of World Hearing Day 2019, “Check your hearing”, was echoed by all the speakers at the press conference in Moscow on 5 March 2019. The meeting was jointly organised by the WHO Country Office in the Russia Federation and the WHO Collaborating Centre for Ear and Hearing Care at the National Research Centre for Audiology and Hearing Rehabilitation.

Hearing loss is on the rise. Globally, over 460 million people live with disabling hearing loss. Unless action is taken, this number could rise to 630 million by 2030 and could pass 900 million by 2050. “In the Russian Federation, there are more than 13 million people with hearing impairments, including more than 1 million children and adolescents. It is important to know that hearing loss can be prevented. And there are simple measures that each of us can apply,” concluded Dr Melita Vujnovic, WHO Representative to the Russian Federation.

Unaddressed hearing loss impacts individuals and their families. With disabling hearing impairments, adults and children are encountering problems with speech development, auditory perception, social adaptation, education and work. According to Professor George Tavartkiladze, Director of the National Research Centre for Audiology and Hearing Rehabilitation, 60% of hearing loss in children can be prevented. For those who already have a hearing impairment, 40% could benefit from rehabilitation using modern technologies. “You will not believe it, but about 30% of schoolchildren aged 12–23 years suffer hearing loss. This is a colossal figure!” he added.

The first step in addressing hearing loss is early identification, followed by prompt and appropriate interventions. Those who develop hearing loss can achieve their full potential through rehabilitation, the use of hearing devices, education and empowerment. An inspiring example was shown by a 7-year-old boy, Emir Galeev, with a cochlear implant, who was the youngest speaker at the press conference. This year Emir plans to join first grade in the regular school where his sister already studies.

At the press conference, all the participants had an opportunity to check their hearing with professional devices, under the supervision of doctors, supplemented by hearWHO, a new app developed by WHO for adults and health workers to check hearing.

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