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How thumping matatu, night club noise is making Kenyans deaf

Innumerable Kenyans are becoming deaf because of exposure to loud noise at work and during recreational activities, a national survey has warned.

According to the first Kenya National Survey of Deafness by the Ministry of Health released last Friday, at least one in every 10 Kenyans is living with a hearing impairment, thanks to exposure to loud music in public places like night clubs and public transport.

The rising cases have also been attributed to lack of screening.

Other reasons cited for cases of hearing loss include genetic causes, birth complications and ear infections, ageing and use of particular drugs.

The Kenya National Survey of Deafness –the only available survey-, which was carried out in 30 districts in 1995 revealed that 5 to 8 percent of the population of Kenya has hearing impairment.


But the ministry now says that new statistics indicate that the number of cases have significantly gone up over the years. The ministry is pushing to include drugs for treating earing problems on the list of essential medicines.

“Although we appreciate the role the University of Nairobi has played in training ENT specialists to bridge this gap, more needs to be done to avail these specialists in every corner of the country,” said Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu.

Speaking at the launch of the Kenya National Strategy for Ear and Hearing Care, Dr Mailu said that there was need to develop simplified ways of training frontline health care workers in early diagnosis, intervention and referral of patients with ear diseases.

“These are the low hanging fruits as resources are mobilised to train more specialists,” said Dr Mailu.

Currently the country only has 75 Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) surgeons— one ENT surgeon for over half a million Kenyans—against a population of about 45 million, against the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendation of at least one to 50,000 patients.

According to the World Health Organisation, over 360 million people globally have disabling hearing loss of whom, 328 million are adults while 32 million are children.

Disabling hearing loss refers to hearing loss greater than 40 decibels in adults and 30 in children.


Acting WHO Country Director Dr Nathan Bakyaita advised people working in area where there is loud noise to use protective devices like earplugs and noise-cancelling earphones.

“That thumping sound in the matatu could spell doom for your precious ears. Not to mention the noise levels in clubs or even churches,” said Dr Bakyaita.

Prof Muthure Macharia an ENT head and neck surgeon and lecturer at the University of Nairobi said there was need to invest in equipment and increase the number of experts.

And also called for increased immunization (vaccinations against mumps, measles and rubella, meningitis, chronic otitis media) among children to reduce the surging cases.