Tuesday, December 23, 2014 2:54 pm
Stephen Olufemi Oni/Ilorin
Profesor Foluwasayo Emmanuel Ologe, a don at the University of Ilorin, seeks enforcement of laws against noise pollution
Hearing loss has been described as a serious health problem, particularly among elderly people worldwide. Incidentally, social isolation, depression, behaving inappropriately and paranoia have been related to hearing impairment, significantly reducing the quality of life of such individuals and their contribution to society. But more worrisome is that the awareness of its prevalence, causes, effects, prevention and management has been notedly, very poor. Besides, manifestations and consequences of hearing problems are open, particularly to those with a high index of suspicion.
For this reason, Professor Foluwasayo Emmanuel Ojo of the College of Health Sciences, University of Ilorin, who delivered the institution’s 155th inaugural lecture on11 December, recommended that hearing loss, being an unseen handicap, should be identified early to enable the prescription of appropriate remedy.
“Every opportunity of meeting patients in the hospital can be utilized to screen for hearing capabilities. There is a need to go outside the ear, nose and throat diseases clinic in surveillance for hearing loss in patients attending other clinics of the hospital. And there is the need to return to the laboratories and operating theatres; laboratories to search deeper for causes, cures and rehabilitation modalities; and operating theaters to execute remedies,” he advised.
It is however, cheery that hearing loss can be prevented and where it exists, according to Ologe, it can be managed. But since hearing aids are not freely available and tend to be beyond the reach of average Nigerians, he charged the government in the country to make hearing aids available free of charge or at reasonable costs.
To prevent the disease, aside urging the strengthening of the immunization scheme to help reduce acquired causes of hearing loss, the inaugural lecturer, whose lecture was titled “Hearing Loss: The Hidden Handicap’’, stressed the need for the enforcement of legislation regarding noise control, which has been attributed as the major cause of hearing loss among Nigerians. In particular, he noted that the Federal Environmental Protection Agency, FEPA, Amended Decree No 59 of 1992 requires the agency to establish environmental guidelines and standards for the abatement and control of all forms of pollution. To this end, he urged FEPA to exercise its statutory powers to inspect facilities and premises, search locations, seize items and arrest and prosecute people contravening any law on environmental standards.
Aside calling for making guidelines to ensure that hearing loss screening is incorporated into all forms of routine medical test, Ologe urged the three tiers of government to enforce adequate compensation of those affected by occupational hearing loss.
Stating that government cannot combat hearing loss singlehanded, the don challenged Non-Governmental Organisations, NGOs, in the country to take up the gauntlet by funding hearing promotion activities and continuously, through advocacy, contribute to discussions and influencing policies affecting hearing. Likewise, he urged his colleagues in the field of Otolaryngology to continue to conduct research on hearing loss, clinical duties and advocacy to help reduce the burden of hearing loss, adding that paediatricians should assist with neo-natal hearing screening at every subsequent visit while screening at birth should be with otoacoustic emission.
The specialist admonished teachers to take the pain to investigate poor performing students as a way of detecting hearing loss early in such students, adding that “parents should be vigilant at observing their children and report concerns about hearing acuity to the physician without delay.”
Hearing loss, he noted, is a spectrum from mild to profound and urged individuals to promptly report any potential threat to their hearing. As a measure, he recommended routine or yearly ear check-up.
Although industrialization is a global significance of development, Ologe said it is of mixed blessing to mankind. He said: “While it enhances the quality of life, it poses serious threats to public health.
Excessive sound damages the ear cells and the blood supply to the cochlea, initially at a frequency around 4kh2. The damage is initially temporary, called temporary threshold shift, but with greater sound exposure, and for longer duration, it becomes permanent.”
He added that: “Today, many people regard commercial grinding ventures as a viable means of augmenting their income and meeting other financial needs. To keep the cost minimal and make for easy accessibility, the grinding machines are stationed close to the owners’ residence. This exposes the regular user, his or her family and neighbours to the risk of noise-induced hearing loss,” Ologe noted.