By: Dr Dhrubajyoti Bora
WHO celebrates World Hearing day on 3rd March every year. Each year WHO develops a theme to sensitize the public, and this year the theme is- Ear and Hearing Care for all.
According to an estimation by WHO about 34 million children under the age fifteen suffer from disabling hearing loss. Disabling Hearing Loss is now the fourth leading cause of handicap worldwide. A person suffering from disabling hearing loss finds difficulty in communicating with other people, their psychological health is jeopardized, both professional and educational life is immensely hampered. Considering this fact it has now become a clarion call to understand how our hearing can be restored, what are the causes of hearing loss, and various dos and don’ts of ear health.
Today’s children are tomorrow’s future- if we really fathom this adage then it’s pertinent to understand the importance of hearing and speech in a child, and how the hearing loss can be identified at the earliest, and what are the current treatment protocols as well as rehabilitation programme available for them to deal with this menace.
Most of the childhood hearing loss can be mitigated by proper mother and child care. If a child is born deaf or becomes hearing impaired later on timely identification by proper investigations and treatment and rehabilitation is of utmost important to restore normal hearing and speech. The parents should be conscious and the role of teachers can’t be denied.
It’s not that all the newborns have the probability of developing hearing impairment or deafness. There are definitely some causes. CMV infection in the first trimester of pregnancy, use of ototoxic drugs during pregnancy, having previous birth history of deaf child, are the major risk factors. Sometimes, newborns are born underweight (especially less than 1500gm), suffers from neonatal jaundice (bilirubin level rises beyond 20mg %), has to be in ICU for prolonged duration, suffers from meningitis etc. The hearing of such newborns are at stake. For older group of children mumps, measles, rubella infection, chronic infection of the middle ear, meningitis, ototoxic medication, and exposure to high decibel sounds are the important causes of hearing loss. Needless to say the impact of hearing loss in a growing child as compared to an adult is manifold. Even a mild hearing loss in a child can be detrimental to the development of proper speech. Any school going child if becomes inattentive in the classes, or their educational performance dwindle they should be immediately consulted with an ENT specialist. Complain of ear pain, diminished hearing, ear discharge shouldn’t be neglected. Not only children but also the adults should refrain from some of the bad habits like putting oil and inserting sharp objects into the ear, using head phones, listening in high volumes, slapping over ear, taking medicines without doctors’ advice, swimming and bathing in dirty water etc.
Newborns diagnosed with hearing loss after being screened by OAE and BERA should be promptly fitted with binaural hearing aids or prepared for cochlear implant, followed by proper speech therapy course for development of normal speech. Most of the screening tests are now available at the Medical Colleges and the District Hospitals. Routine newborn hearing practice should be emphasized. Preferably screening tests shouldn’t be delayed; up to six months after birth is the golden time period for testing. Recent emphasis on the immunization programme by the government is a laudable endeavour in many aspects for a child’s health and prevention of hearing loss in a child can be achieved to some extent by the proper implementation of the immunization programme. A simple habit of proper hand washing with soap and water in the pregnancy time before taking food can be an important step in the prevention of hearing loss of the newborn due to CMV infection. Any pregnant lady should avoid non prescribed medicines during their pregnancy period. They should avoid high decibel sound sources.
At last, it can be added that a responsible citizen should be aware of these simple but important facts, and should keep in mind that every effort should be made in the restoration as well as protection of normal hearing for all age groups in the society. (The author can be reached at email@example.com)