With a focus on achieving proactive health in ears via scientific protective measures, China's 24th National Ear Care Day falls on Friday.
"For different age groups, the emphasis to realize proactive ear health should be different," Liang Wei, deputy director of China Rehabilitation Research Center for Hearing and Speech Impairment, told CGTN.
According to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, "proactive health" refers to the sum of all social activities of human beings that revolve around health. For ears specifically, it means to control the risk factors of hearing health at the source, create the values of hearing health in the process, and actively deal with the crisis of hearing security in all social activities, said Liang.
Early screening, diagnosis imperative for children
"Family factors are the main influencing factors of hearing impairment in children under the age of 15, and about 60 percent of hearing impairment in the age group can be avoided, based on a World Health Organization survey," said a blue book on hearing health in China released in 2021.
"Therefore, effective prevention and treatment of children with hearing impairment is the key to improving the health level of the whole population," the blue book added.
Neonatal hearing screening is an effective measure for early detection.
"Hearing screening is generally performed for newborns about three days after birth, and for newborns hospitalized in intensive care units, it is performed before discharge. Those who do not pass the initial screening should be re-screened within 42 days. If (the child) still fails, they should get hearing diagnosis within three months," Zhang Donghong, chief physician of the otolaryngology department at Shenyang Women's and Children's Hospital, told Xinhua.
For those who need an operation, three to six months after birth is what doctors call the "golden phase," Li Yongxin, deputy head of the otologic team at the Chinese Medical Doctor Association, told China Media Group (CMG). "One can do well after an operation if audiological intervention is done during this period."
He also cautioned that genetic screening for deafness matters, as hearing loss can be progressive or delayed.
In 2022, more than 30,000 hearing-impaired children in China were provided with cochlear implant operations, post-operative rehabilitation training and hearing aids. Ninety percent of them attended ordinary kindergartens and primary schools, CMG reported.
Experts say hearing health education is also important.
For preschool and primary school children with hearing impairments and their families, Liang said the concept and methods of early intervention and comprehensive rehabilitation should be strengthened.
For ordinary children, the training of hearing health literacy should be integrated with their life science education, and activities to popularize knowledge about hearing disorder prevention should be designed and organized, said Liang.
He noted that teenagers should be aware that they take responsibility for their own health. They should take the initiative to reduce the risk of hearing loss caused by exposure to entertainment noise and develop good habits. Try to avoid irregular schedules, excessive pressure, physical and mental exhaustion or being addicted to video games.
Preventing age-related hearing loss
The prevalence rate of hearing impairment increases with age, and the trend is more pronounced in people between 30 to 40 years old, Liang introduced citing an ear and hearing disorder survey in the Chinese provinces of Jilin, Guangdong, Gansu and Shaanxi.
The survey, conducted between 2014 to 2015, found that the majority of people with hearing impairments are elderly, and those aged 60 and above account for more than half of the population.
Liang said knowledge of measures to prevent age-related hearing loss and its impact should be popularized.
For the elderly who have already have hearing impairments, emphasis should be laid on the usage of hearing aid equipment and adaptive training, so that they can realize effective communication and engage in social interactions, he said.
Experts suggest that to maintain healthy hearing ability, the elderly should have a balanced diet, regular work and rest time, and moderate physical exercise, and give up habits like drinking and smoking. They should be careful with the use of drugs that are toxic to the ear and kidney, stay away from high-volume and long-time noise, and keep an open-minded attitude.