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Friday, 15 June 2012

An insight to early detection of deafness

By Sammy Kirumba

Two important aspects of man’s ability to communicate with others and with his environment are hearing and sight. In a deaf child, deafness impairs this communication and if it has been present since birth, it may hinder or even prevent its development. If hearing impairment is detected in a child at the earliest possible time, it is better as this enables intervention or corrective measures to be instituted. A child born with hearing impairment is not able to fully communicate with its environment; this is because, development of speech and language depends on hearing and repeating what has been heard. 

There are two types of deaf children: Pre-lingual deaf [those that are born deaf] and Post lingual deaf (those who developed deafness after having developed speech and language). Pre lingual deaf has a greater problem than post –lingual deaf. 

A woman shouting at a deaf person
It is of paramount importance for parents, teachers and caregivers to detect speech and language development delay early enough in their children. Delay in detecting hearing loss in children born deaf is due to the fact that delays in speech and language is considered as a result of the child being a “slow” learner. At the same time it is also good for parents and teachers to be able to detect early signs of deteriorating hearing loss in a child who was not born deaf. One of these signs is poor school performance. Such a child may fail to respond to instructions, answer questions or participate in class discussions. He/she may at the same time start losing interest in class work. More often than not these children are said to be “naughty” and repeatedly punished for being inattentive in class.

A number of factors increase the risk of a child being born deaf or developing hearing impairment in the first years of life. They include: hereditary- family history of deafness, severe illness of the mother during pregnancy, Children born prematurely, Prenatal and postnatal problems e.g. prolonged labor or failure to cry immediately after birth, administration of certain antibiotic drugs and Children developing severe illness after birth. Any child with these signs should be screened for hearing loss. 
The word 'deaf' in sign language

A child develops deafness later in life due to acquired causes such as: ear infection, trauma, childhood illness like malaria, measles, mumps or meningitis and use of some drugs.

Deafness is often caused by infection and poor nutrition. For most deaf children, deafness could have been prevented by taking care of basic needs (food, clean drinking water, a safe clean place to live and access to health care).

To prevent deafness communities must work together to solve the social causes that medicine cannot fix.
Children’s health and hearing thrives well when communities have clean air (free of smoke and dust) and good sanitation, and are free from violence. Good health care, including health education, immunizations, and early treatment of illness is key to protecting children’s hearing.

It is also important to consider the educational needs of children with hearing impairment. Some children may be integrated into a normal school since they have either been treated or have had hearing aids fixed on them while others may need to be placed in special schools. Whatever the case, the best results are obtained when hearing loss is detected early and intervention planned as early as possible.

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