Services for those suffering from hearing loss to be decentralised

Dr Gashumba screens a child in Kigali. Marie Anne Dushimimana.

The Ministry of Health, together with Starkey Hearing Foundation, yesterday launched a strategic plan to decentralise hearing care services at the village level in order to help as many people as possible.

According to the ministry, hearing loss has been an overlooked issue worldwide and many people suffering from it think nothing can be done to help them hear.

Dr Diane Gashumba, the Minister for Health, said they had established a long term partnership with Starkey Hearing Foundation in order to decentralise services.

“I was looking at people who are waiting to be screened and they all have hope in the Ministry of Health and the Foundation,” she said.

 Until now, the services were specialised and looking at the specialists Rwanda has today, they can’t be available at the lower level where everybody can access them, she said. The services usually are available at provincial and university hospitals, she said.

“With the help of Starkey Hearing Foundation, we are going to train community health workers who are going to take care of people with hearing loss. Each will have at least 100 to 150 households under their care,” she said.

The target is to lower the hearing care service at the village level where even the community health workers are able to screen patients.

Jules Ndayisaba, in charge of non-communicable diseases at Rwanda Biomedical Centre, said 60 per cent of hearing loss among children and 50 per cent among adults are preventable.

In 2012, a census conducted by National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda showed that in 500,000 people with disability, 80 per cent among them are victims of hearing loss, and many of them are children, he said.

The causes include congenital issues, diseases, age, harmful lives and injuries like head trauma, road accidents, and other kind of trauma, he said.

“It has negative consequences especially on education, losing job opportunity, inability to socialise and it has an impact on the economy on the individual and family level, as well as for the country in general. We need to set priorities in order to sustainably prevent it and help people,” he said.

Bill Austin, the founder of Starky Hearing Foundation, said their vision was that they all may hear

“We use hearing to connect people, promote caring and respect and turn the world into a better place,” he said.

Philomene Nyirabubanje, who has a 10 year old daughter, said she was glad that the services are going to be available at health centres.

“My daughter was born with a hearing problem but I discovered it when she was two. I was poor,” she said, committing to do all possible to help her live a normal life even though it was not easy. At 10 years, she was not able to speak or hear anything, until when she received a hearing device.

‘Now, she knows her name, my name, she can call me and other family members, she can also communicate basically. If I received (the devise) earlier, now she would be studying like other children of her age,” she said.

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