WHO releases fact sheet on deafness and hearing loss; report on childhood hearing loss (1 March 2016)

On 1 March 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a set of documents pertaining to hearing loss. While one was a fact sheet on deafness and hearing loss, others concerned childhood hearing loss.

Background information:

Hearing Loss: A person who can only hear sounds 25 dB  or louder in one or both ears is said to have hearing loss.

(The severity of a hearing loss is ranked according to the additional intensity above a nominal threshold [25 dB] that a sound must be before being detected by an individual; it is measured in decibels of hearing loss.)

Hearing loss may be mild, moderate, severe or profound. It can affect one ear or both ears, and leads to difficulty in hearing conversational speech or loud sounds.

Disabling hearing loss refers to hearing loss greater than 40 decibels (dB) in the better hearing ear in adults and a hearing loss greater than 30 dB in the better hearing ear in children.

Key Messages:

Deafness and Hearing Loss

 360 million people (more than 5% of the world’s population) have disabling hearing loss (328 million adults and 32 million children).

The majority of people with disabling hearing loss live in low- and middle-income countries.

Approximately one-third of people over 65 years of age are affected by disabling hearing loss.

Hearing loss may result from genetic causes, complications at birth, certain infectious diseases, chronic ear infections, the use of particular drugs, exposure to excessive noise and ageing.

Hearing loss has functional, social, emotional and economic impacts.

Half of all cases of hearing loss are avoidable through primary prevention- vaccination against diseases like measles, meningitis, rubella and mumps; screening for and treating syphilis in pregnant women; screening children for otitis media, etc.

People with hearing loss can benefit from hearing aids, cochlear implants and other assistive devices; captioning and sign language; and other forms of educational and social support.

Current production of hearing aids meets less than 10% of global need.

Childhood hearing loss

32 million children across the world live with disabling hearing loss.

60% of this can be prevented.

If not addressed, childhood hearing loss may result in the following consequences:

  • delayed language development
  • academic under-achievement
  • social isolation
  • increased risk of injury
  • increased poverty

Strategies for prevention and care:

  • Strengthen maternal and child healthcare programmes, including immunization and organizations of people with hearing loss
  • Implement infant and school-based hearing screening
  • Train healthcare professionals in hearing care 
  • Make accessible hearing devices and communication therapies 
  • Regulate and monitor use of ototoxic medicines and environmental noise 
  • Raise awareness to promote hearing care and reduce stigma

Useful Links:

Link to the fact sheet on deafness and hearing:


Link to the report on childhood hearing loss:


Link to the infographic on childhood hearing loss:



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