Legarda Calls for Better Health Measures Against Deafness and Hearing Loss

March 3, 2018

Senator Loren Legarda today enjoined doctors, scientists, leaders, and experts from the health sector to further develop and promote preventive measures and effective solutions against deafness and hearing loss, as well as communicate the importance of hearing care, especially among the youth.

In her keynote address at the World Hearing Day Symposium and the 10th International Academic Conference in Otology, Rhinology, and Laryngology (ORLIAC), Legarda echoed the call to prevent the increase of deafness and hearing loss cases in the world and ensure that people suffering from this condition are provided with the necessary rehabilitation services and communication tools to aid them in their daily lives.

“As we recognize the unfortunate reality that a great number of Filipinos and many more worldwide live with deafness or hearing loss, we also attest to the need to strengthen our preventive measures and bolster medical care in addressing this condition,” Legarda said.

Citing figures from the World Health Organization (WHO), Legarda stated that 360 million people or 5.3% of the world’s population have disabling hearing loss. She also said that an estimated 1.1 billion young people, ages 12 to 35 years, are at risk of hearing loss because of unsafe listening practices.

In the Philippines, hearing impairment was reported to be 17% or 97,957 per 577,345 population based on the National Registry of the Department of Health (DOH) in 1997. Moreover, the nationwide survey on hearing disability and ear disorders conducted by Better Hearing Philippines in 2005 estimates the prevalence of hearing disability at 8.8%, while the prevalence of hearing impairment, including mild forms of hearing loss, was at 28%.

Legarda also mentioned the study of Dr. Charlotte Chiong, Director of the Philippine National Ear Institute, which reported that, “at least eight profoundly hearing deaf babies are born everyday in the Philippines or one deaf baby born every three hours.”

“Early detection and prevention will be crucial in bringing down the statistics. Hearing intervention is critical before the age of six months. Without such, hearing impaired children will experience some form of language delay. They may also do poorly in school, and may suffer psychosocially due to feelings of isolation and low self-esteem,” Legarda said.

Legarda authored three laws that help address this health issue, namely: Republic Act 9245, which created the Philippine Ear Research Institute; Republic Act 9288 or the “Newborn Screening Act of 2004,” which seeks to ensure that every baby born in the Philippines is offered the opportunity to undergo newborn screening; and Republic Act 9709 or the “Universal Newborn Hearing Screening and Intervention Act of 2009,” which established the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Program to institutionalize measures for the prevention and early diagnosis of congenital hearing loss among newborns.

Meanwhile, there are related measures currently pending in the 17th Congress, such as Senate Bill 1257 or the “Act to Protect Filipino Pregnant and Lactating Mothers, Infants, and Young Children During the First 1000 Days of Life,” filed by Legarda; and Senate Bill 900, filed by Sen. JV Ejercito, which provides telecommunications systems accessibility to the hearing-impaired and speech-impaired.

Legarda also said that, as Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, she had ensured funding of the Universal Healthcare Program under the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), so that all Filipinos, including those not yet enrolled in PhilHealth, can access healthcare services in all government hospitals.

In closing, the Senator emphasized the need to sustain and forge new partnerships with health leaders and experts, especially in the areas of research, policy, technology, and communications.

“It is indeed the government’s responsibility to protect and promote the rights of every Filipino to life and survival and to provide them with equal opportunity to thrive as productive members of our society. But we certainly need your help in nurturing the kind of life we want for our children and fellow Filipinos. Together, we can certainly do more to prevent and reconnect the people who feel isolated from this same world that we share and live in,” Legarda concluded.