UKZN’s ENT Department joined the World Health Organization (WHO) and countries across the world to raise awareness for Hearing Loss and its economic impact on World Hearing Day in a Symposium held on 2 March.
This campaign contributes to ENT-UKZN’s outreach programme, ENT-CARES (Client Access and Referral Expansion Service) into communites that traditionally have had poor access to medical treatment. ENT-UKZN runs a clinic for blind and deaf clients on Tuesday mornings at the KZN Blind and Deaf Society.
The aim of the Symposium was to raise awareness and promote ear health and hearing care across the world. This year’s theme was “Action for hearing loss: make a sound investment”. The theme draws attention to the economic impact of hearing loss. According to WHO, unaddressed hearing loss poses a high financial cost to the economy globally and has a significant negative impact to those affected. The awareness and advocacy event held at the Nelson R Mandela Medical School saw ENT specialists, reasearchers, NGO’s including parent groups and organisations that represent the deaf, audiologists from the university, public sector and private, occupational therapists and teachers for the deaf shared information and strategies to address hearing loss and ear related problems.
Prevention, screening for early identification and rehabilitation through hearing devices, captioning and sign language education were among the strategies that were discussed as means to mitigate hearing loss and its consequences.
‘We should advocate for quality and modernised education for the deaf, education that will integrate the deaf and blind with society. Blind and deaf people should be provided with education that will provide them better chances of employment and enable them to contribute to the economy of this country,’ said Justice Zack Yacoob, President of the Blind and Deaf Society of KZN.
Another important but often overlooked area highlighted is involvement of parents in decision making. ‘Parents are a critical part of the puzzle who are often undervalued. An empowered parent is a powerful force to seeing hearing challenged children reach their full potential! In order to see more parents become actively involved in their child’s journey, we need to see parents as equal partners. Linking parents up with fellow parents and introducing them to other deaf and hard of hearing people to learn from, is critical in seeing a parent becoming empowered’ was the message from Dr Birdsey from Hi Hopes.