Hearing Loss in Asia Pacific on Ear Care day of WHO
In March 2012, we founded Asia-Pacific Federation of the Hard of Hearing and Deafened (APFHD). We were working on this for years as we believe this segment is ignored to get proper attention.
Yesterday world observed “International Day of Ear and Hearing” this day announced by World Health Organization (WHO). We contacted WHO to see what they are doing on this day and found some interesting info from the Asia-Pacific office of WHO.
According to the WHO Estimate South Asia, Asia Pacific is most effective region where occurrence of hearing loss both in children and adult over 65 year is highest in the world.
According to this estimation majority of people with hearing loss live in Asia and Pacific countries.
South Asia 27%,
East Asia 22% and
Total 59% people with hearing loss living in our region. Its mean 212.5 Million persons with hearing loss are living in Asia and pacific countries. This estimate also show that 68% people with hearing loss are adults.
From this if we guess that the majority of people with hearing loss would be deafened (late-deafened) it would be wise.
Here our concern is what we are doing to ensure these people with hearing loss can live independently?
I personally have observed that in disability movement leaders who are at front usually don’t understand how the people with hearing loss are suffering. In 2005 after the earthquake in Pakistan in an international workshop a big leader with disability said “what problem Deaf can have? They are able body they can run”. But he didn’t realized that yes we can run but only when we can listen the call to run.
Also there is lack of understanding that hearing loss or deaf doesn’t mean “Deaf”. It doesn’t mean that ever deaf person need Sign Language. There are people who are hard of hearing who can listen with assistive device like hearing aids, they need better environment and additional assistive device to have better listening. There are people who become deafened after learning a spoken language (post-lingual deafness) such people with severe or profound deafness cannot get benefit from assistive listening we need captioning.
Now if we look at AP region on one hand it has majority of people with hearing loss (59%) but when we compare to access to assistive technologies such as hearing aids, captioning it is the most neglected region. Majority cannot avail a pair of hearing aids and there is no concept of real-time caption in most of the countries in the region.
Last year we were able to add few things in Inchon Strategy by raising our voice in UN ESCAP meeting. i.e. reorganization of people who are hard of hearing and deafened, captioning for (at least) news, and data collection that can show deaf, hard of hearing, deafened separately.
Alone captioning can give access to majority of this 59% people of hearing loss to information, education and entertainment. But it need huge investment for recorded material adding caption is not a big deal only need to raise awareness and develop some policies. But for real-time caption we need huge investment and years to develop necessary human resource.
And we are look forward that in new Asia-Pacific decade (2013-2022) this topic will get proper attention and the GOs, INGOs, donors will put this development in their priority list.
a barista who himself is deafend