Photo has been used for illustrative purposes. Reuters
Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter
The benefits and significance of early interventions come to the fore as the World Health Organization-Office of Prevention of Blindness and Deafness leads member-countries in observation of the annual “World Hearing Day” this March 3, Tuesday.
Theme for 2020 is “Don’t let your hearing loss limit you. Hearing for life!”
The key messages are:
• At all life stages, communication and good hearing health connect us to each other, our communities and the world;
• Timely intervention will help the hearing impaired and the deaf facilitate their access to education, employment and communication; and,
• Globally, there is a lack of access to intervention to address hearing loss such as hearing aids.
Over in the UAE and on Monday, the Dubai Health Authority released the progress on the seven-year-old (2013-2019) Cochlear Implant (CI) Programme of the Dubai Hospital, showing that at least 500 residents afflicted with various stages of hearing impairments have overcome their respective challenges.
CI is an electronic device that helps the deaf process sound and speech.
Majority of the 500 who now enjoy normal lives, particularly the joys of communication are children, according to hospital ENT consultant Dr. Jamal Kassouma, among the veteran otolaryngologists in the country who has performed over 1,200 implants and medical procedures related to ears/nose/throat conditions.
On Monday, Gulf Today also received the findings of the Jan. 1 to 10, 2020 online survey commissioned by the Austrian-based Med-El global technology (implantable hearing systems) company, covering 13 countries of 12,000 respondents with 502 in the UAE.
The research revealed that among the 13 countries, the UAE had ranked 12th as only 16 per cent “had never had their hearing checked” in sharp contrast to the 47 per cent of UK residents, consequently labelled as “with the worst aural health habits.”
The research demonstrated the imperative-ness of early interventions among adults who suffer from acquired hearing loss as among the 502 respondents in the UAE, 126 (25 per cent) considered “communication difficulties and the frustrations that come with it as the biggest concern” while 85 (17 per cent) “feared social isolation” as the terrible aftermath.
The research showed that among the 502, 181 (36 per cent) “have not had their hearing checked due to the lack of awareness on the issue,” 231 (46 per cent) “think society or the community is doing something but not enough to make people with hearing issues feel included and active in everyday life,” and 201 (40 per cent) claimed “they would only have their hearing checked if they had to such as a mandatory yearly check-up especially after a certain age.”
On the importance of support from stakeholders, Kassouma was thankful that Dubai Hospital is among the institutions in the country pursuing CI.
“Since we have a stringent newborn screening policy and since every newborn is screened prior to discharge, this means that babies receive early intervention, which is crucial for language and hearing. As early as seven months they are fitted with the hearing aid. By one year, which is the eligible and recommended age, children who need (CI) undergo surgery and are fitted with the implants,” he said.
Kassouma attributed congenital hearing defects and acquired hearing loss due to meningitis to consanguine marriages.
He said, “Early intervention helps children with congenital hearing loss. Children who receive implants before 18 months have shown to develop language and hearing skills similar to that of their peers with normal hearing.”
Kassouma encouraged those suffering from acquired hearing loss or impairments to “visit their ENT specialists even at the slightest change in their hearing” so as to pre-empt surgeries and CIs.
Meanwhile, interestingly, the 502 UAE residents in the research appreciate the most the sounds of music, birds chirping, water fountain, prayer call, and running river, at 196 (39 per cent), 181 (36 per cent), 156 (31 per cent), 141 (28 per cent), and 110 (22 per cent), respectively.
The DHA shared these statistics to highlight Emirati women’s notable contributions on the occasion of Emirati Women’s Day, which falls on Aug.28 of every year.
The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevntion also noted that an additional 2,026 individuals had fully recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries to 389,304.
"Our ability to hear is precious. Untreated hearing loss can have a devastating impact on people’s ability to communicate, to study and to earn a living. It can also impact on people’s mental health and their ability to sustain relationships," said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
Salim Bin Lahej thanked all the strategic partners who supported the Health Fund Office’s humanitarian initiatives including the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department in Dubai, Awqaf and Minors Affairs Foundation and other charities and philanthropists.
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The ministry said that the value of the monthly fuel allowance is linked to the social status of each family, which is variable according to the current price of fuel. It can be obtained using the Emirates ID card at any of ADNOC Distribution stations across the UAE, throughout the month.