WHO highlights urgent need for hearing care worldwide

Doctor Harrison Phiri carrying out an ear examination on Anne (11) at Beit Cure Hospital in Zambia

Nearly 2.5 billion people worldwide ─ or 1 in 4 people ─ will be living with some degree of hearing loss by 2050, warns the World Health Organisation’s first World Report on Hearing (open link in new tab), released today. At least 700 million of these people will require access to ear and hearing care and other rehabilitation services unless action is taken.

The World Report on Hearing (open link in new tab) shines an urgent spotlight on the need for better ear and hearing care worldwide and provides guidance for governments to integrate ear and hearing care into their national health plans.

The report highlights that:

  • Among low-income countries, about 78% have fewer than one ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist per million people.
  • In children, almost 60% of hearing loss can be prevented.
  • Lack of accurate information and stigmatising attitudes to ear diseases and hearing loss often limit people from accessing care for these conditions.
  • In most countries, ear and hearing care is still not integrated into national health systems and accessing care services is challenging for those with ear diseases and hearing loss.
  • Timely action is needed to prevent and address hearing loss across the life course.
  • Investing in cost effective interventions will benefit people with hearing loss and bring financial gains to the society.
  • Countries must integrate people-centred ear and hearing care within national health plans for universal health coverage.

CBM UK Programme Manager, Elfreda Whitty, welcomes this new report:

“CBM works in the world’s poorest places to improve access to healthcare services, including people living with hearing loss. An integrated people-centered approach is already at the heart of what we do and we’re pleased to see this report urging others to adopt this approach to ensure ear and hearing care for all.”

In Zambia, children with hearing loss routinely struggle to access education, while adults often face unemployment. Thanks to our dedicated partners and the generosity of CBM supporters, we’re training medical staff, equipping hospitals and providing support for people living with hearing loss. Find out more about CBM’s Zambia programme here (open link in new tab). This programme is supported by the Scottish Government’s International Development Fund.

Mutale’s story

Mutale (12) from Zambia smiling at the camera ©CBM/Hayduk.

When Mutale was 12 years old he started having problems with the hearing in his left ear. This went on for almost 3 years and affected both his education and his confidence, as he couldn’t hear properly in class. “I sat in the front row and still couldn’t hear the teachers. Friends started to laugh about me. It hurt a lot.” Thankfully, Mutale discovered he could have a hearing aid fitted at CBM’s partner Beit Cure Hospital in Zambia. Now he has high hopes for a future career in ear and hearing care “It is one more year till I graduate. Afterwards I want to become an ear doctor” smiles Mutale.

Watch this film to find out more about CBM’s ear and hearing care work in the world’s poorest places (open link in new tab):


World Hearing Day 2021 transcript (open link in new tab)

Images: Top – Doctor Harrison Phiri carrying out an ear examination on Anne (11) at Beit Cure Hospital in Zambia ©CBM/Hayduk. Bottom – Mutale (12) from Zambia after being fitted for a hearing aid at Beit Cure Hospital in Zambia ©CBM/Hayduk.


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