Solomon Islands: The national burden of ear disease and suggested help for the deaf community.
In August 2012, Brother George van der Sant, the head of the school for deaf youths in Honiara, told a journalist from Radio New Zealand that the deaf were the most neglected of all the people with disabilities in the Solomon Islands.
Brother George said at the time there was no doubt there were thousands of deaf Solomon Islanders, particularly in remote parts of the country, who had lost their hearing through infection with malaria...
A nationwide survey in the Solomon Islands in 2005 found 14,000 people with disability in the country but it wasn’t established how many people were deaf.
In 2018, a paper published in the International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology found, quote:
“Ear diseases with associated hearing loss are a significant public health problem among primary school students in the Solomon Islands. The implementation of routine School Ear and Hearing Programs could be beneficial, and should reduce the national burden of ear diseases.”
Since 2018, being aware of the acute problems of deafness in the Solomon Islands, especially those suffering from ear disease, I have endeavoured to secure free hearing aids for as many people as possible but, until recently, without success.
I was keenly motivated to want to help the children with deafness because it is a known finding that hearing loss can be a substantial barrier to education and social integration. for learning oral communication, as well as academic and social participation.
Most recently in communication with the Ear Science Institute in Western Australia, I was delighted to learn the Institute had a hearing bank was keen to help me with gifted hearing aids to the Solomon Islands.
A request to the MOHMS followed, asking for the type and numbers of hearing devices needed. That request is pending and I really do hope the Institute will be given the answer soon.
My hopes have been dashed, somewhat, when I learned from advice given by Mr. Obiga Newton, the Audiometrist and an Otorhinolaryngology nurse working at the National Referral Hospital (NRH) in the ENT Clinic, that hearing aid repair is unavailable in the Solomon Islands.
Mr. Newton, I understand, shares my concerns for the deaf community and would very much like to see the Ear Science Institute send hearing aids, but is concerned that without being able to repair any hearing aid locally that might become faulty, due to the high humidity in the Solomon Islands, whether it be the right time to take advantage of the hearing aid offer.
It is a question I believe must be left for the MOHM to decide in cooperation with the Ear Science Institute, but my personal feeling is the offer of hearing aids should not be missed, given it has taken so long to find a donor, and the MOHMS should ensure capacity measures are adopted to see hearing aids can be serviced locally and as soon as possible.
Similarly, I would strongly urge the Solomon Islands government to bring in early measures to fund and implement routine school Ear and Hearing programs given the acute problems of deafness prevailing amongst school children in the country in 2020.