More than 350 people yesterday received free ear screening services as part of the activities to mark the International Ear Care Day.
The exercise was organised by the Rwanda Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery Society (ROHNSS) in partnership with the Ministry of Health and the Starkey Hearing Foundation, a US-based NGO.
Olive Musoni, a coordinator with Starkey Foundation, the sponsors of the exercise, said the drive was part of efforts to prevent hearing impairment.
“We believe more in prevention than treatment. This is why we are giving people a chance to go for early screening, so they can know their status,” Musoni said.
Dr Protais Munyarugamba, an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) surgeon at Central University Teaching Hospital of Kigali, cautioned people against using sharp objects such as matchsticks to clean their ears to avoid the risk of damaging the eardrum.
“We are not only carrying out screening services, but also treatment of minor cases, and referring those with complicated conditions to concerned hospitals,” Dr Munyarugamba said.
The cost of ear screening ranges between Rwf40,000 and Rwf50,0000 in private health facilities.
Dr Rajab Mustafa Mugabo, the head ENT department at King Faisal Hospital, Rwanda, said the Day, marked for the first time in the country, served as an opportunity to conduct awareness on possible causes of ear infections and hearing impairment.
Jean Damascene Bizimana, the youth representative of the Rwanda National Union of the Deaf (RND), said it is crucial for people to turn up for screening exercises since the burden of being deaf is too heavy to carry.
“You can’t understand how difficult communication can be until you have hearing impairment, so it’s important to take advantage of such events to save your hearing,” Bizimana said.
Jean Baptiste Rwemera, a resident of Nyarugenge District and one of the beneficiaries of the exercise, expressed relief.
“For long, I have been feeling pain and strange sounds in my left ear, but after today’s examination and cleaning, I feel much better and at ease,” he said.
Scope of the problem
Musoni said Starkey Foundation has given out more than 15,000 hearing aids to patients since its inception in 2012.
“We save people a lot financially, because buying a hearing aid equipment and fitting it alone costs around Rwf800,000 in ordinary hospitals in the country.”
She said since 2012, more than 3,322 people have been screened.
“We discovered that otitis [inflammation of the ear] is the commonest ear infection in the country,” Musoni said.
Dr Munyarugamba said although every district hospital requires at least two ear specialists, only eight are fully licensed in the country.
“Some people, especially in rural areas, are convinced that hearing problems are not treatable, so they never bother visiting hospitals,” Dr Mugabo said.
“Although no national study has been carried out on ear issues yet, a survey I carried out in 2008 on 1,072 pupils around Kigali showed that 13 in 100 had hearing problems. This shows that there is a problem,” he added.
He added that people above the age of 60 are also vulnerable to the impairment.
The World Health Organisation estimates that about 360 million people around the world have hearing impairments, with two-thirds of them from developing countries.