Public Defender’s Statement on World Hearing Day
Every year on March 3, World Hearing Day is celebrated with the aim of raising awareness of hearing loss and promoting ear and hearing care across the world. In 2021, the main message of this day is “Hearing care for all! Screen. Rehabilitate. Communicate."
The World Health Organization reminds the public that hearing loss can be avoided through preventative actions such as: protection against loud sounds, immunization of children and women of reproductive age, avoiding medications that endanger hearing, maintaining hygiene, etc. In cases already identified, the negative consequences of hearing loss can be reduced with timely detection and early, effective intervention. Timely and effective action is needed to prevent and address hearing loss across the life course.
People with hearing loss living in Georgia face a number of barriers in terms of social inclusion. It is problematic to ensure proper rehabilitation for these people and to cover the whole country with needs-based programmes. Equal access to public services and effective communication remain problematic.
The systemic problems have become even more apparent in the wake of the new coronavirus pandemic. Communication challenges have been complicated by the need to use a mask to prevent the spread of the virus. The use of non-transparent masks create obstacles for people with hearing loss. It is also problematic to maintain social distance, as it is difficult for some of these people to perceive sound due to distance. They lose a significant amount of information and face difficulties in getting various services.
In the search for ways to overcome communication difficulties caused by the pandemic, the world is focusing on masks with transparent shield. Such a mask, based on the experience of many countries around the world, can change the daily lives of thousands of people in Georgia. For this, it is important for the State to promote the use of transparent masks and to ensure the introduction of adapted services in the public and private sector.
On the occasion of the World Hearing Day, the Public Defender once again draws attention to the needs of people with hearing loss and calls on the responsible agencies to:
- Ensure that the needs of people with hearing loss are integrated into policy documents and action plans
- Take necessary measures to prevent hearing loss by raising public awareness and increasing access to hearing screening programmes
- Ensure access to rehabilitation components for all persons with hearing loss and oversee the implementation of hearing rehabilitation programmes
- Facilitate the introduction and use of transparent masks in both public and private sectors, including in education and rehabilitation services, in order to facilitate communication for people with hearing loss
- Ensure that people with hearing loss have access to information and, through active involvement of the community, promote effective communication with them in all areas of public life.