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Source: IRIN
7 June 2011



OPT: Huge Demand for Hearing Aids

TULKAREM, WEST BANK, 7 June 2011 (IRIN) — Hearing impairments are common among Palestinians mainly due to inherited genetic mutations and lack of access to adequate medical services which allows minor infections to develop into major problems, according to Rafi Walden, a surgeon at Sheba medical centre in Israel.

Marriages between Palestinians who are genetically related, also referred to as consanguineous marriages, are common in the West Bank and Gaza and have helped spread mutant genes. Matters are made worse because a simple hearing device costs up to US$1,000, which is too expensive for most Palestinian families.

“Hearing aids are not funded by Palestinian public health providers and are out of reach for nearly all Palestinians,” said Salah Haj Yihyeh, who recently coordinated a donation of hearing aids by the Starkey Hearing Foundation to 1,000 Palestinians in Tulkarem. Before this, speech therapists and experts from the Sheba medical centre had visited the area in April.

“We began advertising and looking for needy patients in January in the West Bank and within days we had over 1,000 applications,” said Walden, who is also a board member of Physicians for Human Rights, an NGO promoting equal access to health services for Israelis and Palestinians.

“We have since received another 10,000 requests.” No one, he added, knows exactly how many deaf children and adults live in the West Bank, but the large number of requests indicates the extent of the problem among the 2.5 million people who live there.

Naji, who came to the event from the town of Qalqilya with his 12-year-old deaf nephew, said: “He can’t speak and goes to a special class in his school with 10 other deaf children.”

Two hours later, however, the nephew could hear his uncle’s voice for the first time in his life. Another child, Raneem, aged four, started calling her father “baba” soon after a hearing aid was fitted.

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


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