In India, around 63 million people suffer from significant hearing impairment. Four in every 1000 children suffer from severe to profound hearing loss. Over 100,000 babies are born with hearing deficiency every year. Many of these babies are born into families with no suggestive history of permanent hearing loss. The newborn hearing screening test helps to diagnose babies who have permanent hearing loss as early as possible. The test does not hurt the baby, and parent can stay with the baby while it is conducted. The importance of a screening test is to provide effective treatment at the earliest opportunity, thus reducing suffering due to the hearing impairment.
Children tent to compensate for a hearing loss. They do so by using visual cues, such as shadows or parental expressions and reactions,etc. Because of this, the average age at which children are found to have a hearing loss is 2-3 years. Children with mild-to-moderate hearing loss are often not identified until 4 years of age. Children with hearing loss typically have issues in language development and scholastic performance.
A possible strategy to ensure that children with hearing loss are identified and treated early is to ensure that every baby is screened for possible hearing loss at the birth in hospital. This has been done in many countries such as USA, UK, Singapore, Australia, etc. Currently, India does not have such a program.
Studies suggest that results in children with hearing impairment since birth are more favorable if treatment is started early in infancy rather than later in childhood. Early diagnosis and management can help combat severe psychosocial, educational, and language problems in these children. The most important time for a child to learn language is in the first 3 years of life. Babies who are not diagnosed before 6 months of age are found to have delays in speech and language development. Proper management at or before 6 months of age may allow a child with impaired hearing to develop normal speech and language, like his or her hearing peers. Children as young as 1 month of age can be fit with and benefit from hearing aids. Early detection and treatment leads to better speech development in children, better scholastic achievements in school, and thereby limitless professional opportunities.
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