A United States based Non-Governmental Organization; The Starkey Hearing Foundation is to establish a Community-based Hearing Healthcare programme in Nigeria to increase access to Ear and Hearing care among the people of the country.
The foundation will also provide, service and maintain hearing aids given to people living with hearing impairment at no cost.
In a statement issued by the Director of Global health and Research for the Foundation, Dr. Luqman Lawal. “The Foundation will carry out the medical outreach in partnership with the Olusegun Obasanjo Foundation, Federal Ministry of Health, State Governments, the academia and professionals in the field of Ear and hearing care in Nigeria and Non-governmental organizations.”
He noted that the Foundation will be providing the technical expertise to support the three prongs of the Academic Health Center model (Service Delivery, Training and Capacity Building, Research and Policy Advocacy) and provide all the hearing devices, its accessories and required maintenance services to ensure sustainability.
The Director of Global Health of the Foundation said further that Olusegun Obasanjo Foundation would be responsible for the coordination of the logistics of the programme in Nigeria through partnerships with the Federal Ministry of health, State governments and local stakeholders within the country.
Dr. Lawal, a Physician and Global health expert noted that the World Health Organization estimates that about 360 million people live with disabling hearing loss worldwide with 32 million of them being children and approximately 90% of people living with hearing loss reside in low resource settings with little to no access to Ear and Hearing healthcare services.
The most recent National survey of hearing impairment and deafness in Nigeria show that approximately 8.5 million (5%) Nigerians have some form of hearing impairment.
However, there is a need for more Hearing health epidemiological studies in Nigeria to provide objective estimates of the disease burden.
He said in the first year of the partnership; the Foundation will be serving approximately 3000 patients with the hope of increasing the number of patients served to about 15000 or 20000 annually, based on the success of the first year. He said, ” The programme will be established with the training of local Ear and Hearing care professionals on Community-based Hearing health services and 45 participants from across the country have been drawn to benefit from the initial training”.
According to him, ” In low and middle-income countries, hearing aids have only 2.5% penetration rate (i.e. only 1 in 40 people that require hearing aids have access to and can afford it). It has also been estimated that 50% of hearing loss is preventable through simple and effective public health approaches”.
The Medical expert said that as a consequence of hearing loss, social, functional and economic impacts had been widely reported leading to loneliness, isolation, frustration and suicidal thought.”
The WHO in partnership with the London School of Economics made a conservative estimate that the world loses approximately 750 billion international dollars to untreated hearing loss annually.
These impacts of hearing loss are not only on individuals but also on family members, communities and countries”, he said.
Dr. Lawal said due to the wide access gap that disproportionately affects the low and middle- income countries and the consequent impacts, The Starkey Hearing Foundation was founded in 1984 by Mr. Bill Austin in the United Sates to address hearing challenges.
He explained that the foundation has created and now operates Community-based Hearing healthcare programs in 52 low and middle-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, South East Asia, Pacific Asia and the Middle East. According to him, the proposed Nigerian programme will take place in phases as follows: Ogun (16th-20th of June), Lagos (21st- 23rd of June), Abia (7th of July), Kaduna (9th of July) and Kwara (11th of July)
The Director urged potential beneficiaries of hearing aids to register with their names, phone numbers, address and state of residence at the “contact us” section through the link: www.olusegunobasanjofoundation.com free of charge.