Hearing loss – Why it deserves more attention




Impairment of hearing and hearing loss are a major problem worldwide that does not receive enough attention. This is the conclusion reached by the World Health Organization (WHO) in its "Report on Hearing". According to the report, around 1.5 billion people worldwide currently suffer from hearing loss. 430 million people are affected by severe and limiting hearing loss. According to the WHO forecast, the number of people with hearing impairment is expected to rise to 2.5 billion by 2050, with 700 million of them requiring medical care. In its report, WHO addresses the global extent of hearing impairment, describes causal and preventive factors of hearing loss, and identifies effective interventions, and health challenges and solutions. In this blog post, we will present key findings from the report.

The global significance of hearing loss

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) report, more than 1.5 billion people currently suffer from hearing impairment. 430 million people are affected to a moderate or severe degree. This does not include people with unilateral or only mild hearing loss, although they also experience limitations in everyday life.

The WHO estimates that by 2050, about 2.5 billion people will have hearing loss, and 700 million of them will be so severely affected that they will need medical services (hearing thresholds of more than 20 decibels (dB) in audiometric measurements indicate clinical hearing loss).



Figure 1 - Pojected increase in prevalence of hearing loss, 2019-2050. Source: World report on hearing. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2021. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.


Hearing loss receives too little attention

Despite the widespread prevalence of hearing impairment and hearing loss and its associated consequences, too little attention is paid to the issue and the problem is under-addressed worldwide, according to the WHO report.

For example, too little information is available on the topic, even among healthcare providers. Knowledge about prevention, detection and management of hearing loss is lacking in many areas. In many countries, hearing prevention and care are not part of public health systems, despite their importance. Linked to this is often poor data on access and availability in relation to hearing care.

The WHO cites the lack of trained professionals as an extremely critical issue. Low-income countries in particular lack access to specialists and medical professionals. In addition, only 17 percent of people worldwide own a hearing aid who could actually benefit from using one. This is true to almost the same extent in all income groups as well as different regions.

This is all the more surprising given that people with hearing impairment or hearing loss suffer significant losses in their quality of life. Financial consequences also arise when people cannot fully participate in communication or education or suffer disadvantages in the workplace due to hearing impairment. Full hearing strength is important for the development of speech and the ability to express oneself, and is also a foundation for cognitive performance, mental health and interpersonal relationships.

Factors influencing hearing ability

There are numerous factors that influence a person's hearing ability. These include, for example, genetic characteristics, biological factors, environmental influences and behavioral factors that a person is exposed to in the course of his or her life.

In general, a distinction can be made between negative influences (causative factors) that affect a person's hearing and positive factors that protect hearing performance (protective factors).

Figure 2 illustrates a number of these negative and positive factors. The graph clearly illustrates the complexity and multi-faceted nature behind a person's hearing.

Causative, negative factors range from low birth weight, meningitis and bad habits such as smoking, to age-related hearing loss. Protective factors include breastfeeding in infancy, a healthy lifestyle and appropriate personal and ear hygiene.



Figure 2 - Hearing across the life course. Source: World report on hearing. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2021. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.


Possible measures

Due to the high prevalence of hearing impairment and hearing loss around the world and the associated consequences, the World Health Organization emphasizes the importance of preventive measures and appropriate treatment for those affected.

Technological solutions are already available today, are very effective and also make sense from an economic point of view. Medical technology provides innovative solutions at a very high level, for example with hearing aids or cochlear implants. Public health systems should make better and broader use of the possibilities, according to the WHO. Due to the Corona pandemic, public attention to health issues is currently particularly high and thus offers the opportunity to address issues such as hearing loss in the population and anchor them in people's consciousness.



Figure 3 - Various measures for hearing loss. Source: World report on hearing. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2021. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.


An important step in the fight against hearing loss is prevention. 60% of cases of hearing loss in children can be prevented through preventive measures such as early detection or vaccinations. In adults, there are effective protective measures such as volume control, hearing protection and regular check-ups.

If hearing impairment occurs, early detection is very important to limit hearing loss. Often, early measures such as medical treatments or surgical interventions can reverse hearing impairments. Basically, as with many diseases: The earlier the hearing impairment is detected, the better it can be combated. It therefore makes sense, for example, to have regular hearing tests at defined points in life.

The consequences of irreparable hearing damage can be well treated by using hearing aids - or in worse cases cochlear implants. Such devices also help prevent further hearing loss. However, only 17 percent of people worldwide own hearing aids that could actually benefit from using them.

The devices are very efficient and are constantly being further developed. They thus make an important contribution to quality of life and participation in society. Hearing aids are also becoming smaller and smaller and more sophisticated in terms of design, which brings visual advantages for those affected and increases wearing comfort.

For hearing aid manufacturers and their suppliers, this increases the requirements in terms of precision and reliability. With its focus on micro rubber parts, micro silicone parts and its capabilities in the production of small, complex rubber parts, as well as decades of experience in this field, HEPAKO is a major manufacturer of various hearing aid components made of rubber and silicone. Molded rubber parts and molded silicone parts play an important role in hearing aids, contributing to acoustic success through vibration damping or noise isolation. Typical molded rubber parts or silicone molded parts in hearing aids are, for example, microphone suspensions or receiver suspensions, seals, dampers and connecting hoses made of silicone, fluorosilicone, butyl, FKM (Viton ®) and also chloroprene. More about our activities in the field of hearing aids can be found here.  

Overall, the World Health Organization summarizes what it considers necessary steps under the acronym H.E.A.R.I.N.G..

This proposal is about making better and more consistent use of existing opportunities and technologies, incorporating hearing care into national health systems to provide more universal access for those affected, and generally raising public awareness of the issue.

According to the WHO, countries should implement measures at different levels of their health systems to address the issue of hearing impairment and hearing loss. For example, realistic targets must first be defined and an appropriate roadmap to achieve them. Financial resources must be increased and funding must be sustained. This should also help to train more professionals and medical experts in this field. Furthermore, the World Health Organization calls for easier access to existing technologies such as hearing aids, including in the area of diagnosis and early detection. In addition, more resources should flow into the area of research. 


Figure 4 - Universal access to ear and hearing care through H.E.A.R.I.N.G. Source: World report on hearing. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2021. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.


WHO: Measures also have economic benefits

Improving health services related to hearing prevention and hearing care has several benefits, according to the World Health Organization report. Providing 90 percent of the world's population with appropriate care by 2030 would require $1.33 per person. This could prevent a total of 130 million DALYs (disability adjusted life years; years in total that people live with hearing impairment). In total, 1.4 billion people would benefit. The economic benefits would be high. For every U.S. dollar invested, the WHO calculates a return of USD 16.



Figure 5 - Benefits of scaling up ear and hearing care services. Source: World report on hearing. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2021. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.


If you are interested in the full report "World Report on Hearing", you can download it from the World Health Organization website at the following link:




World report on hearing. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2021. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.

Download: https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/world-report-on-hearing


World report on hearing: executive summary. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2021. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.

Download: https://www.who.int/publications/m/item/WHO-UCN-NCD-SDR-20.22


If you have questions about this blog post or would like to see a specific elastomers topic covered soon, feel free to contact us by email at info@hepako.de or feel free to contact us anytime here.     


Or follow us on LinkedIn if you would like to be informed about the latest blog posts.