Ear Week seeks to increase hearing awareness. Picture Henk Kruger/Cape Argus
Ear Week seeks to increase hearing awareness. Picture Henk Kruger/Cape Argus

Time to take care of your child's ears

By Vuyo Mkize Time of article published Mar 3, 2016

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Johannesburg - Does your child have a delay in speech and language skills?

Or perhaps a delayed reaction to sounds, and still tugs at your arms or clothes to communicate their needs?

Does your child have a discharge coming from their ears or poorly developed ears?

If any of these ring true, your child may have a hearing problem.

In South Africa, 20 percent of the population is reported to have significant and permanent hearing loss, with studies suggesting that three to six babies in every 1 000 born develop hearing loss or have major hearing difficulties.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), around 360 million people - five percent of the world's population - live with hearing loss which is considered disabling. Of these, nearly 32 million are children, most of whom live in low-income and middle-income countries.

Thursday March 3 is International Ear Care Day and is themed to coincide with the WHO report (released on Tuesday) on hearing: “Childhood hearing loss: act now, here is how!” It aims to draw attention to public health prevention measures that could prevent major hearing loss.

The organisation estimates that around 60 percent of childhood hearing loss could be avoided by strengthening prevention measures like immunisation programmes which prevent infections such as congenital rubella, meningitis, mumps and measles.

“Unfortunately, in South Africa, detection and diagnosis of loss of hearing in children happens quite late compared to some other countries. In Britain, for example, hearing loss is detected in a baby by eight weeks,” Dr Victor de Andrade, a speech pathologist, audiologist and lecturer at Wits University, said on Wednesday.

“Some parents aren't even aware... Some say to me, I leave home when the child is asleep and come home when they're asleep, and when we do interact, I just think they're slow of learning'. Or when they go to the doctor with their concerns, they're told to wait it out' until the child is three.”

The WHO estimates that 40 percent of childhood hearing loss is attributable to genetic causes; 31 percent to infections such as measles, mumps, rubella and meningitis; and 17 percent to complications at birth, including prematurity, low birth weight and neonatal jaundice.

An estimated four percent results from expectant mothers and newborns unknowingly using medicines that are harmful to hearing.

A child who struggles to hear may also struggle to learn to speak.

The Star

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