The World Health Organisation (WHO) is launching the app HearWHO on March 3 so that everyone can check their own hearing on a smartphone. This is a major breakthrough for this year’s World Hearing Day on March 3.
To bring attention to how hearing loss can be prevented and managed, World Hearing Day is held yearly on March 3 – a day was chosen because 3 3 resembles the shape of our two ears.
Worldwide about 466 million people live with significant hearing loss and the problem is on the rise. Around 49 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa have hearing loss and estimates are that this figure will increase to 133 million by 2050 – when the children who have just started school are in the prime of their lives. And in South Africa, around 7.5% of school children already suffer from some hearing loss.
The problem is that many people don’t even realise that they are not hearing properly and missing out on what is going on around them.
Do you experience any of the following?
- Difficulty hearing normal speech on your phone – although you’ve already turned up the volume as far as it will go.
- You keep putting the TV louder and your family – and even your neighbours – complain that it’s too loud.
- You miss parts of normal conversations at work or at home, especially if two or more people are talking at the same time. You battle even more to follow speech in a noisy environment, like a restaurant.
- Often say “Wha-a-a-t?” and people have to repeat what they’ve just said.
- You find it more difficult to hear women and children talking, than your friend with a deep voice.
- After a day of meetings or socialising you are mentally and even physically tired from straining to hear.
- You often get frustrated and even angry with people because they’re mumbling.
Everyone encounters some of the above at times, but if it happens to you regularly you should check your hearing. If a screening test shows hearing loss you should get a professional assessment and help if needed.
Parents and teachers should also be observant of the above signs in children. We tend to write it off as childhood day-dreaming or naughtiness when children don’t hear and listen – while it could, in fact, be unidentified hearing loss. Another sign that a child might have a hearing problem is if they look at you very closely when you speak, as though they are really concentrating. This could be mean that they are depending on visual cues to understand what you are saying.
The WHO recommends that everyone should check their hearing from time to time. This applies especially to adults older than 50, and those exposed to noise either in their place of work or because they regularly listen to music at high volumes.
The HearWHO app is a sensitive and validated screening tool to detect hearing loss that can be used either by people themselves or by health care workers. The technology is designed to work on any smart-phone and will indicate if the environment is too noisy for the test. After the test, it provides the result, an interpretation and information on hearing care. It also lets you track your hearing over time.