5% of the world's population or 360 million people worldwide have disabling hearing loss; 32 million are children
Access to hearing technologies and hearing healthcare, as well as training in audiology, deaf education, and parent support, lag far behind developed countries
Developing countries lack sufficient resources for hearing screening, and the diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss
50% of causes of hearing loss are preventable through public health actions
Affordable hearing aids are difficult to find and the current production meets less than 10% of the global need:
*World Health Organization, Prevention of Blindness and Deafness (PDB)
Hearing loss is a significant problem in Malawi. However, the true extent of this problem in Malawi is unknown because the prevalence and causes of hearing loss in Malawi have never been investigated. Hearing loss has largely been neglected in Malawi due to the lack of trained professionals with the knowledge and skills to identify and treat hearing loss and/or hearing disorders. Malawi has one ENT physician for a country with a population of approximately 17 million. Healthcare in clinics is provided by Clinical Officers with limited training in ENT or Audiology. Most clinics lack basic equipment such as an otoscope to perform a visual examination of the outer ear. Consequently, common ear disorders, such as otitis media, which rarely result in permanent hearing loss in developed countries, lead to middle ear complications and permanent hearing loss in Malawi. Malawi also has a severe shortage of audiologists and trained medical personnel to provide the needed hearing healthcare services including identification and hearing aid fitting and follow-up. School screening programs designed to identify children with adventitious hearing losses are common in developed countries; however, this practice of hearing loss identification and appropriate intervention has yet to gain a foothold in Malawi. As a result, the majority of cases of ear and hearing disorders to undetected and/or treated. Prior to 2010, the services for the prevention, identification, and management of hearing loss were severely lacking or not being implemented in most regions in Malawi. Thankfully there has been significant progress since that time. Audiological services in Malawi are currently provided by 1) two Australian audiologists, Peter and Rebecca Bartlett, who are based long-term in the country and developed the ABC Hearing Clinic and Training Centre, which is a full-service clinic for diagnostic and rehabilitative service at the African Bible College. 2) visiting audiologists from university programs, such as ASU, on short-term service-learning trips that provide diagnostic and rehabilitative services and training, and 3) Dr. Courtney Caron, an alumna of ASU and the HFH program, who moved to Blantyre in 2014 and is building a full service audiology clinic at the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, which will be completed in spring 2016. Although the progress since 2010 to increase the scope and availability of audiological services in Malawi has been remarkable, the proper training of Malawian students is essential to have long-term sustainability of audiology services and eventually less reliance on outside aid. Hearing for Humanity contributes to a current program at the African Bible College in Malawi to make available a core group of trained Malawians to strengthen service provision in the area of hearing loss identification and rehabilitation. The program emphasizes training of front line Malawian students to acquire skills that can enhance and improve service provision in hearing healthcare. The future of audiology in Malawi is very promising;with financial support from Sound Seekers and Hear the World Foundation, four Malawians were selected to complete a Master's degree in Audiology at the University of Manchester. When they have completed their degree and return home they will be Malawi's first audiologists! HFH has been privileged to witness the growth of audiologic services in Malawi and the opportunity to collaborate and work with our in-country partner and others in Malawi.
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