Long after guns fall silent, Mosul residents suffer hearing loss

For nearly nine months, air strikes, mortar rounds and car bombs pummeled the Iraqi city relentlessly, and thousands of residents still suffer hearing problems ranging from tinnitus to profound deafness. (AFP)
Updated 26 May 2019
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Long after guns fall silent, Mosul residents suffer hearing loss

  • Blasts in conflict zones can propel debris into the human ear and rupture the eardrum, which transmits sound further into the cochlea
  • In Mosul, civilians were exposed to repeated loud blasts that sent between 15 and 20 a day to hospitals complaining of hearing loss

MOSUL, Iraq: For months, Alia Ali endured the din of fighting in Iraq’s second city Mosul. Then a missile slammed into her home, killing her husband and her hearing.
The 59-year-old lost her sense of sound in the final phase of the ferocious battle between government forces and militants of the Daesh group, not long before the guns fell silent in July 2017.
For nearly nine months, air strikes, mortar rounds and car bombs pummeled the city relentlessly, and thousands of residents still suffer hearing problems ranging from tinnitus to profound deafness.
“I lost my sense of hearing two years ago,” Ali recalled.
“A warplane hit our neighborhood in the fight for the western half of the city and my husband died of very bad burns,” she told AFP.
Ali spent two years piecing her life back together, but could not afford to get specialized care for her diminished hearing.
“We lost our home and all our possessions — we didn’t have money to go to private clinics,” she said.
Blasts in conflict zones can propel debris into the human ear and rupture the eardrum, which transmits sound further into the cochlea.
Nerves in the cochlea, which sends sound on to the brain to be processed, can also be destroyed by explosions.
Mines have noise levels approaching 170 decibels — twice the loudness needed to cause permanent damage to ears.

In Mosul, civilians were exposed to repeated loud blasts that sent between 15 and 20 a day to hospitals complaining of hearing loss.
“They were bleeding from their ears because of the shelling, but they had nothing to stop the flow,” according to hearing specialist Mohammad Saleh.
“Some never recovered because their nerve cells were torn by the loud sounds.”
Mosul’s health infrastructure was ravaged by Daesh’s reign and subsequent fighting, with the 6,000 hospital beds available before the militant takeover reduced to just 1,000.
With help from outside charities, hospitals are slowly reopening wing by wing.
At Jumhuriya hospital in west Mosul, a specialized hearing impairment center opened its doors less than a year ago with backing from Iraq’s Dary Humanitarian Organization.
The waiting room is packed with people, young and old, waiting to get long-delayed hearing tests to see how badly the blasts have damaged their ears.
“My hearing deteriorated after three mortars hit my house in west Mosul,” 65-year-old Fathi Hussein yelled.
He can only respond to questions that are virtually screamed, and answers them at the same volume.
“I put off treatment because I’m poor. I don’t have the money for consultations or medicine,” he said.
Since the center opened less than a year ago, it has treated several thousand patients, according to specialist Mohammad Said.
“We have distributed 2,000 hearing aids so far. More complex cases get sent to hospitals in Baghdad for treatment, including cochlear implants which aren’t available here yet,” Said told AFP.
He expects there are thousands more cases that have yet to visit the Jumhuriya center.
“Some patients went to private clinics, others went elsewhere in Iraq or even left the country and still others have received no treatment at all,” he said.

For younger patients, partial deafness means more than just shouting to be heard — it can affect schooling.
“In kids especially, hearing loss can damage speaking ability,” Said said.
“It’s extremely important because it means the hearing aids we distribute aren’t enough, and these children are in need of treatments and speaking rehabilitation that we don’t offer here.”
Five-year-old Mohannad may not remember much of life under bombardment in Mosul, but it will likely mar his education for years to come.
He suffers both hearing and speech impediments from the fighting that were long left untreated.
“I didn’t notice how weak his hearing was until weeks after Mosul was liberated,” his mother told AFP.
She said she was now desperate to get free treatment for Mohannad in time for him to finally enrol in classes this autumn.
“I want to go to school like our neighbor’s son, Ahmad,” Mohannad mumbled with difficulty.


‘Hypocrite’ Rouhani rejects war as Iran’s drones target Saudi civilians

Updated 19 June 2019
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‘Hypocrite’ Rouhani rejects war as Iran’s drones target Saudi civilians

  • Tehran regime has fanned sectarian flames in region for four decades, analyst tells Arab News
  • IRGC chief says Iranian missiles capable of hitting "carriers in the sea" with great precision

JEDDAH: Iran “will not wage war against any nation,” President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday — hours after two drones launched by Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen targeted civilians in southern Saudi Arabia.

Rouhani's statement sounded a note of restraint after the United States announced more troop deployments to the Middle East.

“Iran will not wage war against any nation,” he said in a speech broadcast live on state TV. “Despite all of the Americans’ efforts in the region and their desire to cut off our ties with all of the world and their desire to keep Iran secluded, they have been unsuccessful.”

But he was also contradicted by the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Gen. Hossein Salami, who said Iran’s ballistic missile technology had changed the balance of power in the Middle East.

“These missiles can hit, with great precision, carriers in the sea ... they are domestically produced and are difficult to intercept and hit with other missiles,” Salami said.

He said Iran's ballistic missile technology had changed the balance of power in the Middle East.

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Before both men spoke, Saudi air defenses intercepted and shot down two Houthi drones packed with explosives. One targeted a civilian area in the southern city of Abha, and the second was shot down in Yemeni air space. There were no casualties, the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen said.

Rouhani’s offer to avoid war was “the height of hypocrisy,” the Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News.

“Rouhani is the biggest hypocrite in the world,” he said. “On the one hand, he is saying that Iran does not seek a conflict with anybody, and on the other it is launching attacks through its militias on oil tankers, oil pipelines, civilian airports and holy cities.

“This is nothing but the height of hypocrisy. Who does he think he is fooling with those words? Why are they enriching uranium? Why are they seeking nuclear bombs? What have they done over the past four decades? They have only caused trouble. They have only fanned sectarian flames in the region.”

The Saudi Cabinet, meeting in Jeddah, also condemned the Houthi attacks on Saudi civilians, and last week’s terrorist attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, widely blamed on Iran. 

 

Confrontation fears

Fears of a confrontation between Iran and its long-time foe the United States have mounted since Thursday when two oil tankers were attacked near the strategic Strait of Hormuz shipping lane, which Washington blamed on Tehran.

Iran denied involvement in the attacks and said on Monday it would soon breach limits on how much enriched uranium it can stockpile under a 2015 nuclear deal, which had sought to limit its nuclear capabilities.

Exceeding the uranium cap at the heart of the accord would prompt a diplomatic crisis, forcing the other signatories, which include China, Russia and European powers, to confront Iran.

The standoff drew a call for caution from China. Its top diplomat warned that the world should not open a “Pandora’s Box” in the Middle East, as he denounced US pressure on Iran and called on it not to drop out of the landmark nuclear deal.

Russia urged restraint on all sides.

On Monday, Iranian officials made several assertive comments about security, including the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, who said Tehran was responsible for security in the Gulf and urged US forces to leave the region.

Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Monday announced the deployment of about 1,000 more troops to the Middle East for what he said were defensive purposes, citing concerns about a threat from Iran.

The new US deployment is in addition to a 1,500-troop increase announced last month in response to tanker attacks in May. Washington previously tightened sanctions, ordering all countries and companies to halt imports of Iranian oil or be banished from the global financial system.


'Nuclear blackmail'

Iran’s announcement on Monday that it would soon breach limits on how much enriched uranium it can stockpile under the deal was denounced by a White House National Security Council spokesman as “nuclear blackmail.”

The move further undermines the nuclear pact, but Rouhani said on Monday the collapse of the deal would not be in the interests of the region or the world.

The nuclear deal seeks to head off any pathway to an Iranian nuclear bomb in return for the removal of most international sanctions.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese State Councilor Wang Yi said the United States should not use “extreme pressure” to resolve issues with Iran.

Wang told reporters China, a close energy partner of Iran, was “of course, very concerned” about the situation in the Gulf and with Iran, and called on all sides to ease tension.

“We call on all sides to remain rational and exercise restraint, and not take any escalatory actions that irritate regional tensions, and not open a Pandora’s box,” Wang said.

“In particular, the US side should alter its extreme pressure methods,” Wang said. “Any unilateral behavior has no basis in international law. Not only will it not resolve the problem, it will only create an even greater crisis.”

Wang also said the Iran nuclear deal was the only feasible way to resolve its nuclear issue, and urged Iran to be prudent.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the EU would only react to any breach if the International Atomic Energy Agency formally identified one.

The Trump administration says the deal, negotiated by Democratic President Barack Obama, was flawed as it is not permanent, does not address Iran’s missile program and does not punish it for waging proxy wars in other Middle East countries.