Posted Dec 26, 2012

Hearing loss is the most common sensory deficit in humans. Roughly one child in a thousand is born with hearing impairment significant enough to compromise the development of normal language skills.

Hearing loss in newborns can be caused by environmental factors as well as genetic factors, explains Dr Charanjeet Singh Notay, ENT Surgeon, Zulekha Hospital, Sharjah.

Environmental causes include infections before or immediately after birth and use of drugs harmful for ears. But it is estimated that 50 to 75 per cent of all childhood deafness is due to genetic causes.

Genetic deafness may be associated with other abnormalities in 30 per cent newborns, while in 70 per cent there is no other abnormality. These children born with multiple abnormalities may be suffering from one of the named syndromes eg Alport Syndrome, Pendred Syndrome, etc. Over 400 such syndromes have been described till date.

Children with profound or total hearing loss fail to develop speech and have often been termed as deaf-mute or ‘deaf and dumb’. However, these children have no defect in their speech producing apparatus. The main defect is deafness. They have never heard speech and therefore do not develop it, he said.

In lesser degrees of hearing loss, speech does develop but is defective. The period from birth to five years of life is crucial for the development of speech and language therefore, there is need for early identification and assessment of hearing loss in infants and children so that hearing rehabilitation be started as early as possible.

A child with hearing loss needs a complete evaluation not only to assess the degree and type of hearing loss but also to rule out other associated abnormalities.

Assessment of hearing in children demands special techniques which include behaviour audiometry, conditioning audiometry, otoacoustic emissions, impedance audiometry and electric response audiometry.

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©2012 the Khaleej Times (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)

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