Statistics on hearing problem in children?
Many studies have been carried out to determine the prevalence of hearing loss in children. It is generally accepted that from 6 to 12 % of school going children have some degree of hearing loss. With a total of about 150 million children in the age group of 0-6 years, this is a huge number. The percentage is higher in rural than urban children, the commonest cause being Otitis Media, a condition that is easily treatable. It is also known that earache is amongst one of the most common causes for a parent to bring a child to an ENT doctor.
Hearing problem is difficult to detect. And sometimes it is not detected in a lifetime. Why?
Hearing disability is a ‘soft’ disability – that is, it is not apparent on looking at a patient. If a child cannot read a printed word, it is easier to determine that the child has a visual disability. Hearing loss however can be compensated for by the patient – by increasing the volume (of radio, TV etc), coming closer to the source of sound, other activities like learning to lip read etc. There is also a tendency to ignore – since it doesn’t cause any pain, and if not severe, there may be no loss of livelihood, patients tend to ignore the problem. There is also a perception that hearing loss can only be corrected by the use of hearing aids. The stigma attached to the use of a hearing aid causes many patients to ignore the disability.
What are the various tests for screening and checking loss of hearing ?
The first test is the new born screening, using a hand held device, called OAE – otoacoustic emission, which is a good and reliable first line test. Subsequent screenings involve audiometric evaluation at school or at work, depending upon the requirement.
What steps can parents take to identify hearing problems ?
Parents should be vigilant about hearing loss in children about the following early signs:-
Increasing the volume of the TV
Change in behaviour – either becoming boisterous or becoming unusually quiet
Disinterest in engaging in conversation
How does minor hearing problem hamper emotional growth of a child?
Minor hearing loss – in the category of minimal or mild has a significant impact on the overall development of the child. Academic performance falls, the child’s literacy and numeracy skills are affected. The child becomes withdrawn and since she cannot hear what her friends are saying, tends to be quiet and shy. The child’s social interactions reduce communication skills are hampered.
Article by Dr (Major) Rajesh Bhardwaj, ENT Specialist and Chief Of Cochlear Implant Programme, CA Hospitals