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New WHO training manuals aim to improve hearing care in developing countries

The World Health Organization (WHO) has today released a new set of training manuals aimed at equipping health care workers in developing countries with simple and cost-effective methods to reduce deafness and hearing problems through actions at the primary level of health care.

Despite the fact that half of all deafness and hearing impairment is avoidable, an estimated 278 million people worldwide are living with moderate to profound hearing loss in both ears. The impact of these ear conditions on individuals and their families, communities and countries have generally been underestimated because they are 'hidden' disabilities that cannot be seen.

One quarter of hearing impairment begins during childhood, and 80% of all deaf and hearing-impaired people live in low- and middle-income countries. In developing countries, only 1 in 40 people who need a hearing aid have one and few programmes exist to prevent or treat ear diseases and hearing impairment.

The Primary Ear and Hearing Care Training Resource addresses the urgent need for action to prevent and manage ear diseases and hearing impairment. The set of four manuals provides practical information and guidance and can be used as part of a training course or in a self-taught manner. They are designed to be useful to a wide range of people, from village health workers to more experienced health care personnel. The manuals can also be used to help communities understand common causes of deafness and hearing impairment and ways to prevent and/or treat the conditions. Vaccination against childhood diseases that can cause hearing impairment, good ear hygiene, appropriate use of medication, and avoidance of excessive noise are examples of simple ways of preventing deafness and hearing impairment.

The training resource has been funded by a grant from Christoffel-Blindenmission (CBM) and can be accessed online at www.who.int/pbd/deafness/activities/hearing_care/en/index.html. It will be available freely to projects and programmes in developing countries that wish to conduct training in this field.

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