Electricity generators, major cause of hearing loss in Nigeria — expert

Tailors sitting close to a cluster of electricity generators while in operation: As experts say generator noise contributes greatly to hearing loss among Nigerians

An expert on hearing loss, Dr Bolajoko Olusanya, on Friday 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) on Friday in Lagos.

“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.

“Also, 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 are 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.

“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,’’ he said.

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.

Nigeria is said to record more than 100, 000 cases per year. Treatment may help, but the condition is not curable.

The condition is usually self-diagnosable but laboratory tests or imaging is often required and chronic cases can last for years or be lifelong.

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.

The chief symptom is an inability to hear sound. For some, hearing may be possible with surgery or a hearing device. Lip-reading skills, written or printed text and sign language may help with communication.

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