Deafness is usually the result of inner ear or nerve damage. It may be caused by a congenital defect, injury, disease, certain medication, exposure to loud noise or age-related wear and tear. However, experts say generator noise contributes greatly to hearing loss among Nigerians.
An expert on hearing loss, Dr Bolajoko Olusanya, identified generators, some prescription drugs, and exposure to loud noise as major causes of hearing loss in the country.
Olusanya, a Medical Director at a Lagos clinic, Phonics Hearing Centre, made remarks in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos.
He said, “In Nigeria, we use generators a lot, because of frequent power outages. The public should be sensitised to recognise that apart from getting power supply from generators, staying too long near them can cause hearing loss and once you have hearing loss, it is for life.”
Olusanya added that people who are exposed to loud noise, including pepper grinding machines, those in the aviation industry, as well as factory workers, are at risk of hearing loss. “People should be made aware that if you are working where there is noise, do not stay for too long and if you have to stay, use ear plugs to protect your hearing.”
“Another risk factor apart from generators is the frequent use of drugs, like some antibiotics, which can make someone susceptible to hearing loss,’’ he said.
The expert noted that there were no studies till date to show how prevalent hearing loss was among the populace. He said, “however, in 2000, the National Ear Care Centre carried out a survey on the incidence of hearing loss that showed about 14 per cent of school children had hearing loss.’’
Olusanya said that no other survey had been carried out since then. According to him, there are no public health strategies in the country to address risk factors and as a result, the number of people with hearing loss will keep increasing.
“The World Health Organization (WHO) says that the number of people with hearing loss is on the increase. The organisation says it has increased from 360 million to 466 million and it is projected by that by 2050, about almost a million people will have hearing loss. So, what we need to do as a country is to find out the risk factors of hearing loss in our environment and government should take steps to address them”, he said.
“It is a wake-up call that the National Ear Care Centre should be equipped and properly resourced to create adequate awareness on the issue.’’
Olusanya said that in 2005, his clinic carried out a research to find out the major cause of hearing loss in children. According to him, the findings showed that jaundice was the major cause of hearing loss in children in the Nigerian environment.
Other causes, he said, include infections, some premature babies, and congenital conditions such as cerebral palsy. “We are working on sensitising mothers that once a baby is born and it is discovered that the baby’s eyes are turning yellow, they should visit the hospital immediately. The mothers should recognise the risk factors and take necessary steps to get care for their babies,’’ Olusanya said.
Effects of hearing loss
Hearing loss can cause mental and psychological difficulties. Without our hearing, we may miss important warnings and alerts that enable us to protect ourselves and our families. The physical effects of hearing loss often leads to:
Reduced alertness and increased risk to personal safety – Not being able to hear smoke alarms, severe weather alerts, or a vehicle approaching can lead to serious safety issues for the person affected and those around them.
Reduced job performance and earning power – If an employer doesn’t understand why you can’t follow a conversation or you appear to struggle with listening or following instructions, this can negatively impact your career and financial earnings.
Negative long-term effects on brain function and memory – Studies have shown a direct link between hearing loss and a decline in cognitive abilities. Trouble remembering important details and the inability to concentrate can further lead to isolation and a general deterioration of well-being.