Hearing Loss in Bangladesh
The burden of hearing-related disability is an important and common public health problem. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that over 5 per cent of the world’s population has disabling hearing loss that jeopardises their daily life and livelihood.1 The estimated number of people with disabling hearing loss is 360 million, of which 32 million are children. Childhood development, especially speech and language, is seriously hampered as a result of disabling hearing loss.
Hearing impairment is a cause and consequence of poverty, especially in low and middle income countries.2 The Government of Bangladesh have estimated that hearing impairment is the second most common form of disability in Bangladesh, with economic, social, educational and vocational associations.3 Many factors, including genetic inheritance, some maternal diseases during pregnancy, various other diseases, ototoxic drugs, excessive noise over an extended period of time and ageing, are responsible for causing hearing impairment.4 Given that children are worst affected by hearing impairment, we must do our best to protect future generations from this avoidable problem.
A small-scale study carried out for the WHO in 2002 reported a prevalence of 7.9 per cent hearing impairment (in the better hearing ear) in Bangladeshi people.5 Studies in India have reported a similar prevalence (6.3 per cent).6 The impairment can be as severe as being unable to hear someone shouting (which is commonly known as deafness).
Experiences from other parts of the world indicate that half of hearing impairments are preventable through public education, early detection and effective treatment. However, for proper planning of programmes or interventions, representative data are essential to begin such an intervention. So far, nationally representative data on the prevalence of hearing impairment are not available in Bangladesh. Therefore, the present study has been carried out to determine the prevalence of disabling hearing impairment in Bangladeshi people of all ages.