World Hearing Day

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World Hearing Day

World Hearing Day

March 3rd marks the celebration of the World Hearing Day as declared by the World Health Organization. Several months ago, in July 2018, the third global meeting on the program for the prevention and treatment of hearing loss was held at the WHO headquarters in Geneva. At the meeting, the WHO announced the establishment of the World Hearing Forum – an alliance of UN agencies, governments, scientists, NGOs and private businesses to promote ear and hearing care. This international organizational and scientific support framework of a hitherto unprecedented scale and range is crucial for further activities and development of global health promotion programs and projects supported by continental, regional, and local institutions.

Such a wide spectrum of activities to improve the quality of life of individuals with hearing problems is required since severe hearing loss affects about 466 million individuals worldwide whereas another 500 million people suffer from other disorders affecting their everyday life. If no effective measures are taken to prevent and treat these disorders, these numbers may increase to 900 million by 2050. At that time, hearing problems would affect every 1 in 10 individuals.

A participant of the Forum, Prof. Henryk Skarżyński of the World Hearing Center – the world’s largest center for the treatment of hearing disorders with the largest number of hearing improvement surgeries performed each year for the last 16 years – and of the International Editorial Committee of the Journal of Hearing Science, highlighted the importance of early medical interventions and early detection of hearing disorders. Using extensive clinical and research material, Prof. Skarżyński presented the accomplishments of the “Polish school of otology” which allow new target groups of patients with various congenital and acquired hearing disorders being qualified for various treatment modalities.

The need for early detection and treatment of hearing loss is the leitmotif of this year’s edition of the World Hearing Day. Many individuals live with undetected hearing impairment, frequently unaware of being unable to hear certain words or sounds. Hearing examination is the first step towards the solution to the problem.

– Hearing defects have become a lifestyle disease – says Prof. Henryk Skarżyński – In the past, hearing loss was considered quite normal for a seventy-year-old. Today, due to the civilizational progress, ubiquitous noise, earbud headsets, exposure to loud music since early childhood and, last but not least, the use of ototoxic drugs and prevalence of circulation or metabolic disorders, this age threshold has been lowered to about 50 years. Luckily, we are able to provide help to nearly every individual with hearing disorders – continues Prof. Skarżyński.

The most important messages of the 2019 World Hearing Day include wider availability of state-of-the-art solutions in the treatment of hearing loss and the need for regular hearing tests being performed in all individuals, particularly those at higher risk of hearing disorders, such as individuals above the age of 50, individuals exposed to occupational noise, individuals listening to loud music for a long time, and individuals with a history of any ear problems.

In addition, March 3rd marks the anniversary of a unique surgery being performed for the first time. On this day in 2015, Prof. Henryk Skarżyński performed Poland’s first implantation of a Synchrony cochlear device. The implant allowed patients to undergo MRI examinations; in the future, it would also facilitate tracking of changes in brain activity secondary to acoustic and electric stimuli. This was the first use of such an implant in the treatment of partial hearing loss, constituting a global scientific and medical breakthrough and facilitating the monitoring of changes within the auditory pathway and selected brain structures. Today, implants of this type open up novel therapeutic possibilities such as detection of neoplastic, vascular, or posttraumatic lesions. In addition, they facilitate reduction of treatment costs.