On the occasion of World Hearing Day, Minister for Inclusion and Social Wellbeing Julia Farrugia Portelli together with MEP Alex Agius Saliba have announced that they will launch a pilot project in Malta with the aim of identifying cases of hearing loss. This was announced during a virtual debate led by Alex Agius Saliba, and in which several associations related to hearing participated, including the European Federation of Hard of Hearing, the EFHOH, the European Association of Hearing Aid Professionals (AEA), the EUROCIU and the World Health Organisation.
The theme in relation to this day chosen for this year is ‘Hearing Care for All!’, with a global call for individuals to take necessary and timely action by addressing hearing loss or ear diseases that may arise during an individual’s lifetime.
Minister for Inclusion and Social Wellbeing Julia Farrugia Portelli mentioned how Malta is working continuously on various projects in favour of the inclusion of deaf people. “About 1.4% of the Maltese population has a hearing problem at various levels. As a government, we have launched several projects including a new department of audiology at Mater Dei Hospital and the start of a cochlear implant program. As a Ministry for Inclusion and Social Wellbeing, we are also working on the national strategy of screening of children aimed at identifying hearing problems as early as possible,” explained Minister Farrugia Portelli.
This call is also being raised on a European level through Member of the European Parliament Alex Agius Saliba, who organised a lunch debate on this matter in the European Parliament in Brussels. During this discussion, Mr Agius Saliba explained that no less than 22.6 million European citizens have untreated hearing, possibly because they are not encouraged to check their hearing, ideally at an early stage in their life. This is a reality that is having an impact of around €185 million a year in the European Union.
MEP Alex Agius Saliba, who is also the President of the European Union Hearing Forum and Rapporteur on the Protection of Persons with Disabilities in the PETI Committee of the European Parliament, said that hearing loss increases the risk of social isolation, cognitive decline and dementia, whilst explaining how untreated hearing loss can cause loneliness and lead to increased blood pressure and diabetes. Referring to the high costs associated with the treatment of these conditions, MEP Agius Saliba said that more investment should therefore be made in order to reduce the factors that could lead to them, including hearing loss.
“It is our duty to support and promote hearing health in the best possible way, by promoting professional and quality hearing and balance care practice through education and public awareness, supporting research and facilitating access to innovative technologies, while sharing best practices between member states. Unfortunately, 60% of hearing loss in childhood occurs due to preventable causes. Therefore, we must emphasize the importance of early detection and interventions, which would ultimately lead to better access to education and a better quality of life for the children and their families,” concluded MEP Alex Agius Saliba.