It’s been a known fact for years that the treatment for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, is associated with severe and often permanent hearing loss. This side-effect is caused by second line injectables (SLI). With support of Dr. C. de Langen Stichting voor Mondiale Tuberculosebestrijding (SMT), KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation researched the help of hearing aids for ten patients in Ethiopia who suffer from hearing loss due to this treatment.
One of the TB patients who partook in the project was Fasika Zemu. Three years ago, Fasika was diagnosed with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). Four months into the treatment, she started to suffer from ringing in her ears, followed by almost total hearing loss.
“The ringing in my head was terrible. I hoped that one day I would wake up and discover that this is all just a terrible dream. But it wasn’t a dream, it was real. My family could not understand what was going on with me”, says Fasika. She was fired from her job as a waitress when she lost her hearing ability and became depressed.
Costly solution: hearing aid
She told herself that she should be focused on being cured of TB and finding a way to adjust to a new life. In Ethiopia, a hearing aid costs close to USD $600. “There is no way that I could afford it”, Fasika continues. “When KNCV approached me and asked me if I would like to be part of this project, it was like I have my life back. With a better understanding of the world this time around.”
Two months ago Fasika gave birth to a baby girl. “Imagine if I could not hear her voice now! You have no idea what it feels to be given a second chance.”
Due to the support from KNCV, Fasika’s ability to communicate with other people has improved significantly. The ringing in her ears is much reduced and the follow-up tests show that her hearing level is also significantly improved.
KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation works together with the National TB Program (NTP) of Ethiopia to implement a new, all oral regimen for extensively drug-resistant and multidrug-resistant TB. This replaces the previous regimens with injectables, eliminating the side effect of hearing loss.
This is in line with World Health Organization (WHO)’s new guidance of ensuring full access to fully-oral treatment regimens for patients with drug-resistant tuberculosis. The country-wide scale-up of this regimen will improve treatment outcomes and quality of life for those affected. KNCV supports the NTP to facilitate rapid implementation and scale up to bring hope to the many Ethiopians grappling with multidrug-resistant and extensively drug-resistant TB.