Dubai, January 2015 – MED-EL, a leading provider of hearing implant systems, unveiled results of the first survey on hearing loss in the Middle East. The survey reveals the first comprehensive statistics on hearing impairment regionally, and specifically in the United Arab Emirates, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

The survey’s results were announced during a roundtable chaired by Dr Hussain Abdul Rahman Al Rand, Assistant Undersecretary at the Ministry of Health, UAE, and key MED-EL representatives. They were joined by Professor Dr Abdulrahman Hagr, President of Saudi ORL Society and professor at King Saud University in Saudi Arabia, as well as Professor Ahmed Sameh Farid, General Secretary of the Arab Federation of Otorhinolaryngology Societies (FOS) and former Egyptian Minister of Health.

Dr Hussain revealed that hearing loss in the Middle East is an underestimated health issue, with report respondents estimating that at least 1 in 25 people in the region are affected by some degree of hearing difficulty. This is higher than the three percent figure released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in its 2012 report ‘WHO global estimates on prevalence of hearing loss.’

Commenting on this, Dr. Hussain said: “We cannot ignore the region’s hearing problem, because it will lead to a lifetime of burden for millions of people suffering from hearing loss. This burden will start from minimal education, limited career prospects and over time, social and financial dependency on family and the state.”

The survey found that:

  • According to 87% of the region’s leading specialists, hearing loss is one of the top five severe health issues affecting people in this region, alongside obesity, diabetes and hepatitis.
  • All UAE medical proessionals surveyed believe that mandatory newborn screening is needed to tackle the region’s hearing loss problem.
  • Hearing loss mainly affects children from birth; however most paediatric patients are being treated at three years and beyond. This delay in diagnosis and treatment severely impacts the speech and language development of the child, as well as their education and social integration.63% of UAE respondents believe that people with untreated hearing loss will be affected most by social isolation
  • All medical professionals who took part in the study believe that a public awareness is needed to tackle the region’s hearing loss problem.
  • Socioeconomic status is not a factor affecting the incidence of hearing loss, however, education and literacy were identified as clear barriers stopping the seeking of treatment. 78% of medical professionals believe education is a key factor determining whether or not an affected family will seek treatment for hearing loss disability.

During the roundtable, Dr Hussain explained, “The survey clearly highlights the scale of the hearing loss problem in the Middle East. We can now use the findings to build public awareness of a disease that affects so many. The most crucial outcomes of this activity would be to drive home the importance of seeking treatment as early as possible and to encourage the implementation of mandatory newborn screenings across the region. If we can get these messages across, then we will be educating the populations and reversing the trend of delayed medical intervention.”

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