A fresh indication has emerged that over 8.5 million Nigerians are currently suffering from hearing impairments.
This was disclosed by the President of Speech Pathologists and Audiologists Association in Nigeria (SPAAN), Prof. Julius Ademokoya during a news conference to commemorate the International Month of Hearing and Speech for 2020, held at the NUJ Press Centre in Ibadan on Thursday.
The conference, with the theme: “Promoting Better Hearing and Speech in Nigeria”, was organised by SPAAN, in collaboration with Smile Train Incorporation.
Ademokoya described the rate at which the figure of affected Nigerians was increasing as alarming, calling for government’s intervention toward addressing the situation.
“We are in the era of danger of more people losing their hearing and speech systems. In 1999 when a research was conducted, more than 7.3 million people had problems with their auditory system in Nigeria.
“But a study conducted early this year revealed that the number has increased, and currently, 8.5million people in Nigeria have hearing problems, while 466 million people are suffering hearing loss globally.
“We do have the real statistics to show the number of people suffering from speech problem. Nigeria needs millions of speech therapists to be able to do the work effectively,” he said.
The expert stated that the country had less than 300 audiologists to attend to people with hearing issues, urging government to encourage more people to become audiologists.
He said that Nigerians, on daily basis, were being exposed to many things that had made them to be losing their hearing functions, some of which, he said, included gunshots, abuse of earpieces, noise pollution, drugs and bad lifestyle.
Ademokoya said that government’s attention to hearing and speech loss was very discouraging, adding the country, the society and family would, no doubt, lose the meaningful contributions expected from victims.
He called on government to facilitate legislations that promote healthy living, particularly aspects of hearing and speech, adding that when such problem was detected early, chances of resolving it would be greater.
He advised government to set up a unit in each local government, particularly at the health centres, where affected persons could access healthcare.
According to him, it is important that people protect their auditory system through hearing conservation.
Ademokoya said, “Government must ensure that every child is screened as early as possible for corrective surgery.
“They should also introduce speech correction as a subject at primary school level.”
He also advocated for the introduction of speech education as General Education Study (GES) in tertiary institutions, irrespective of courses of study.
“When you grow, your voice must grow with you too. But some elderly people also speak like children, meaning that their voices did not grow with them.
“This is a challenge. When you see women who speak and their voices are like those of men, it is not normal. If the challenge has been detected early, it would have been corrected.
This ought to be detected and corrected before the child begins to speak,” he also said.
Also speaking, Prof. Oyedunni Arulogun, the SPAAN Vice-President, called for more sensitisation at the grassroots, saying such efforts should commence from households to ensure greater impact.
She listed some causes of hearing loss as genetic, psychological, drug abuse, illnesses, injuries, misuse of sharp objects, accident and diet, among others.
Also, Dr Adeola Olusanya, a Consultant and Partner, Smile Train Incorporation, advocated for early childhood detection and therapy for speech defects.