By Emma Emeozor
Audience loss specialists have expressed concern over the failure of the federal government to implement the national policy and strategic plan for ear and hearing care policy.
At the time the policy was formulated, the government stated that its mission was: “To provide comprehensive, usable and evidence-based interventions to prevent, diagnose and treat ear disease and hearing loss and also to rehabilitate / rehabilitate hard of hearing Nigerians in accordance with global best practices.
But almost three years after the policy was developed, it still has not been implemented. Hearing loss is the second biggest form of disability in Nigeria. During this time, the number of hearing loss cases continued to increase each year. Experts spoke at Cochlear’s public presentation of the Nucleus 7 sound processor in Lagos recently.
Consultant Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Surgeon, Aminu Kano University Hospital, Kano, Professor Emmanuel Kolo said in his contribution: âA national hearing loss survey in Nigeria conducted between 1999 and 2001, reported that the prevalence of hearing loss was 17.9%. of whom 6.2 percent (approximately 7.3 million people) had disabling hearing loss according to World Health Organization (WHO) criteria.
Cochlear said that as a stakeholder he is introducing the hearing aid as part of his contributions to solving the problem of hearing loss in the country. He said his âimplants are designed to mimic the function of a healthy inner ear (or cochlea). They replace the function of damaged sensory hair cells inside the inner ear to help provide clearer sound than hearing aids can provide.
The company believes that with the Nucleus 7 sound processor, people can take control of their hearing and connect to the technology. Although hearing loss experts applauded the contributions of companies like Cochlear, they were quick to express concern over the failure of all three levels of government: federal, state and local governments to tackle the plight of suffering Nigerians. hearing loss.
They insist that the deaf community in Nigeria has continued to suffer from government neglect. The National Policy and Strategic Plan for Ear and Hearing Care Policy advocates “hearing screening of newborns,” according to the national president of the Otolaryngology Society of Canada. Nigeria (ORLSON), Dr Abiodun Olusesi.
He said Daily sun that if implemented, the policy will minimize the number of deaf people in the country. Emphasizing the importance of newborn hearing screening, Olusesi said, âThe idea is that rather than waiting until a newborn is nine months old when the child is supposed to start talking but not speaking, so the parents now come to the hospital after the age of one. . . rather than all of these delays, we can actually detect hearing loss or hearing loss at birth through newborn hearing screening or hearing screening of newborns.
âUsually within 24 or 48 hours of birth, using inexpensive equipment, we can determine if the newborn’s hearing is optimized for speech or if it is poor. Those who fail the newborn hearing screening test will be offered a second chance, six weeks later, to repeat the test. If they still fail the test, they will be referred to the audiologist to perform the diagnostic test, after failing the screening test twice.
âWhen a child is born, with prenatal hearing screening, the hearing condition can be checked and the child’s parents can be guided on the right way to deal with the problem. So that’s where the rural area comes in. It’s supposed to be a test that we should be able to do within the primary health care center which is the level at which most of our rural areas are located.
The Secretary General of the Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists of Nigeria (SPAAN), Dr Simeon Afolabi, agrees with Olusesi. He explained that there are provisions in the National Policy and Strategic Plan for Ear and Hearing Care Policy that require the federal government to provide hearing aids, cochlear plants for sufferers hearing loss as well as participating in hearing screening of newborns. plan. “But these are only written documents, nothing has been done about it.”
Afolabi, who is also managing director of the BSA Hearing and Speech Center and Cochlear’s authorized distributor in Nigeria, said the situation of the deaf in Nigeria has been made even worse by the failure of the federal government to include the provision of medical instruments such as hearing aids in the national health insurance scheme. This is even when rural areas lack medical facilities specifically designed for the deaf, he added.
He wants the government to know that there are Nigerians “in adulthood who have become useless to society because they are deaf, therefore they are not helping themselves.” He was, however, confident when he said: âBut the story can be turned around if these people had been helped early enough to overcome the handicap of hearing loss, they could become productive for society, they could have become independent in the community. company if something had been done to address the problem of hearing loss early in their life.
As part of measures to reduce cases of hearing loss in the country, Olusesi and Afolabi in separate interviews called for more training of ear, nose and throat (ENT) professionals (specialists). Afolabi said: âWe need to train more hearing care professionals: doctors, audiologists and other specialists. When qualified specialists are available in hospitals, cases will be better treated because they will rightly be referred to professionals. And as if to make matters worse, the government is not employing qualified personnel as it should.
Olusesi lamented the loss of Nigerian doctors in the Middle East and Europe, describing the development as a “revised brain drain”. âWe don’t have enough ENT specialists in the country. From the statistics available we have one specialist per million patients, this is a pretty low ratio and on top of that we are rapidly losing members to hospitals in the Middle East and UK.
The two experts also blamed the cash shortage and poverty in the country for the increase in the number of hearing loss cases. They explained that the cost of hearing aids is high and continues to rise as the Nigerian currency depreciates in the global market. Therefore, hospitals and patients find it difficult to buy hearing aids because they are imported from abroad.
They urged federal, state and local governments to step in and help Nigerians who are hard of hearing. It has been suggested that in the meantime, a dedicated fund should be established to reduce the financial burden on people seeking treatment for hearing loss.
According to Afolabi, the majority of Nigerians who have acquired hearing aids for themselves or for their children have been acquired through personal effort.
He said the federal health ministry had no programs in place to help those in need. “National health The insurance plan we are talking about does not cover special cases like hearing aids, but they must be covered, they must be provided to people, âhe stressed.
The challenge of training specialists to improve their knowledge was also highlighted. Olusesi noted that âwith the economic downturn, funding for hospitals has declined. And that put further pressure on doctors to fund themselves. So what we usually do is take advantage of the technology and arrange the update once every two months, using the Zoom platform. We ask specialists to address the forum in their preferred areas. The forum is a larger form of inaugural lecture that professors give at universities.
Cochlear supports calls for government intervention. In a report made available to Daily sun, the company said it has performed no less than 83 successful implants in Nigeria since 2010, while noting that tough economic times make it difficult to pay for the equipment.
In addition, the company organized 50 training courses attended by 625 people.
Training programs include: surgical training for ENT surgeons, professional and educational product training for healthcare professionals and KOLs, master classes in collaboration with ORLSON, audiology training and workshop (in online and offline), a rehabilitation seminar for speech therapists (online and offline) and rehabilitation seminars for parents and beneficiaries.