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Rural residents at risk of hearing loss

About 40 patients received free ear, nose, and throat (ENT) surgeries at the Nanyuki Teaching and Referral Hospital courtesy of the Ear Drop Operation Project, an organisation aimed at restoring hearing.

This comes as the cost of treating ENT ailments remains a challenge for the majority of Kenyans, especially those from rural areas.

Over the weekend, KNA had a chance to interact with Joseph Mburu after he underwent several hours of intensive ENT surgery at the Nanyuki hospital facility, where he revealed that his hearing ailment started a year ago with one ear which had oozing pus before shifting to the next ear, hence hampering his hearing ability completely.

“One of my ears had a hole inside, and I was in and out of the hospital to get cured. Now it has been treated and feels better. I hope it improves and I am able to live a normal life,” notes Mburu.

He says that he hoped his ailment would cease after getting drugs over the counter, but the situation kept on worsening.

He said before he got the rare chance to be treated after a year of agony, the situation had drained him financially despite having no steady income.

Kennedy Ndegwa, also a free ear surgery patient who hails from Nyahururu, revealed that his hearing loss started at a tender age.

“I have undergone the treatment, and I am okay now. I am happy since this was a rare opportunity and God sent. I will be able to hear again after a very long time,”  joyful Ndegwa said.

He noted that the free ENT surgery conducted on him was a lifesaver, and he was hopeful to regain his hearing ability just like his friends, whom he had witnessed undergo the operation.

Catherine Wambui from Subukia said she was referred from Nakuru County to seek medical treatment at the Nanyuki Hospital, which was a clear indication of how the county hospital had improved on health service delivery.

She revealed that hearing loss had been a big blow to her since childhood, and with the operation, she was hopeful of living a happy life.

According to Nanyuki Hospital CEO Dr. Sammy Kilonzo, a patient has to part with about Sh250, 000 to get hearing loss treatment, and the price might go up depending on how complicated the operation is.

He says that hearing loss complications were rampant in rural areas, and partnering with other hospitals was a relief to the patients since the hospital got equipment to help them conduct the free surgeries.

“The issue of hearing problems is rampant in rural areas, and by partnering with other hospitals, we are able to help them undergo treatment. For instance, we are able to get advanced surgery equipment through partnerships,” reveals Dr. Kilonzo.

Nanyuki-based ENT surgeon Dr. David Njoroge says that common hearing problems are due to infection, tumours, injuries, and complete deafness.

“ENT diseases can be caused by many factors, including tonsillitis, colds and flu, infections, injuries, and tumours. The only way to prevent this is for patients to seek medical attention immediately if they experience any ENT problems to ensure the situation doesn’t worsen,” urges Dr. Njoroge.

He notes that with hearing loss problems, they sought support from Operation Ear Drop Project to conduct the free ear surgery medical camp at the Nanyuki hospital.

“We are happy to help patients with hearing problems, and this is not the first time we are conducting this exercise; we started in 2010. So far, we have conducted about 250 ear surgeries for patients from various parts of the country,” notes Dr. Njoroge.

He said the free surgeries were a relief to residents of the Mount Kenya region since the area lacked expertise and equipment to do advanced medical surgeries.

“We rely on equipment from Kenyatta National Hospital and Operations Ear Drop Project to conduct our surgeries because we can’t get them here. We appeal for more support aimed at helping many patients who require our free medical services,” says the ENT surgeon.

According to the 2022 Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) health demographic survey, about 3.5 and 4.5 per cent of both males and females, respectively, experience hearing loss.

Further, World Health Organisation (WHO) hearing loss statistics for 2022 reveal that about 5 per cent of the world population, or 430 million people, need rehabilitation to address their disabling hearing loss, and over 80 per cent come from low and middle income countries.

By Muturi Mwangi

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