(Inner ear of a child 3D reconstruction :Courtesy Dr Asha FRCR, Travancore Scan)
In almost two thirds of patients, parents are the first to suspect hearing loss. Hearing loss is more common than diabetes mellitus, all paediatric cancers, hypothyroidism and numerous other medical conditions. However, most doctors learn very little about hearing impairment. Even some paediatricians are not very sure about how to advise parents of children who are deaf or hard of hearing.
ENT specialists are the ones specially trained for this. There are a few paediatricians who have an interest in managing children and young people with hearing problems. Sometimes, the paediatrician finds that children, who are delayed in speaking, may be due to the underlying hearing problem.
With advances in medical knowledge and technology, it is now possible to test a baby\’s hearing as early as 3 days after birth. By identifying a hearing problem, and providing support sand management, these children are now able to hear, speak, read and learn as well as children born without such a problem.
This early assessment is done by developmental paediatricians.
The common test used is what is called OTO ACOUSTIC EMISSIONS (OAE). This is a very simple test where the child only has to be quiet while the test is done. The machine used will not cause pain. The child does not need sedation. Within 2 minutes a reading is given showing that the child has normal hearing in each ear.
Early identification and intervention can prevent severe psychosocial, educational, and language problems. Infants who are not identified before 6 months of age have delays in speech and language development. Intervention at or before 6 months of age allows a child with impaired hearing to develop normal speech and language, alongside his or her hearing peers.
(Courtesy Dr.Fernandes, Developmental Paediatrician SUT Hospital Trivandrum, Kerala, India. Cell No.09946704009)