February 06 at 07:00
Almost half the people who notice they have hearing issues wait for up to six months before doing anything about it. According to a UAE-wide survey, four in 10 do not take action for a long period of time and only one in four seek immediate help.
Dr Ravinder Verma, a specialist ear, nose and throat surgeon at Medcare in JBR, Dubai, believes it takes some time for the person to realise that there is a problem, which causes the delay in treatment. "If the hearing loss is sudden, then people seek help immediately, but if they feel the hearing loss is age-related and they might need a hearing aid, this is not a happy proposition," Dr Verma said. The trend around the world is for hearing-aid users to wait more than 10 years after their initial diagnosis to have their first set of hearing aids fitted. According to the World Health Organisation, half of all cases of hearing loss are avoidable through primary prevention.
Dr Ahmed Abdelatty, an ENT surgeon at NMC Royal Hospital, believes people dislike seeking care for hearing loss early. "They say it will go by itself and some of them deny it. They will do anything to not seek medical help," he said. "People consider the ear very sensitive and don’t like anyone touching it. They think the problem will go away by itself." Dr Abdelatty gave an example: One of his patients "suffered from hearing loss one morning and came to seek help the same day. She didn’t even wait for a day. If she came four or five days later, I would not have any choices of treatment to give her [the condition was that bad]", he said. "People have to be warned about seeking help immediately." Hearing problems can be caused by a host of reasons, including wax or water in the ear, an infection or even use of a medicine. Sana Sabbah, director of research at Pan Arab Research Centre, who conducted the Hear I Am study of 450 people, said that researchers spoke with Emiratis and expatriates. "Most of the people refuse to admit that they suffer from hearing loss until it is aggravated. When family or parents intervene they seek help. In the case of adults, stigma may be a cause," Ms Sabbah said.
David Raetz, chief executive of Med-El Middle East, a global technology company that researches in the field of hearing loss and develops and manufactures implantable hearing systems, said: "The responses show that more and more people are becoming aware about the treatment and acceptance is also going up. "The average time for people to seek professional help is 10 years and this seems a very long period of time. Often, hearing loss is gradual and it may take some time to realise that something is wrong. Some people may want to postpone visiting the doctor until it impacts their life very badly."