I have just returned from the Coalition for Global Hearing Health conference in Oxford. There are 360 million persons in the world with disabling hearing loss – and just like vision loss – most of this is avoidable through treatment and prevention. Although much remains to be done to counter avoidable vision loss the evidence suggests that our efforts over the past two decades have borne some fruit and we are beginning to see the global prevalence of blindness and low vision declining. However the provision of hearing services, particularly in the low and middle income countries, is extremely thin and as a consequence the prevalence of hearing loss is still increasing. This is something we need to reverse and do something about.
At the conference I gave a presentation on how vision and hearing services could be combined particularly at the primary level. There is a particularly important initiative in Nepal where Nepal Netra Jyoti Sangh are rolling out the addition of basic ear services through the NNJS eye care service system. We must monitor the progress of this programme as I am sure there will be many lessons that we should all draw upon.
Eye health campaigners should mount a joint campaign with our cousins in the ear and hearing world – the NSDs – the Neglected Sensory Diseases.