With the prevalence of children among more than 7.5 million global persons suffering from profound hearing loss without access to treatment, experts have called for legislation on neonatal hearing screening in the country.
Noting the prevalence of profound hearing loss in sub-Saharan Africa, they further urged parents to comply with the country’s immunisation protocol to curb the disability.
Among those who made the call was Dr. Abiodun Olusesi, Head of Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Department, National Hospital Abuja, during a recent media briefing after a cochlear implant program held in three states across the country.
Olusesi told journalists at the yearly event by Cochlear® in Abuja that most hearing impairment occur before children are born – congenital hearing loss, following the exposure of pregnant mothers to certain conditions such as jaundice and infections, which occur in women before pregnancy, even lifestyle habits like, alcoholism, Olusesi said.
His words, “There are so many things that could cause hearing impairment. There are those that happened before the child was born; we call that congenital hearing loss.”
Olusesi also said that some hearing impairment and loss in babies develop after birth, noting that neonatal hearing screening would reduce the growing statistics in Nigeria.
He said, “There is acquired hearing loss, this happens after the baby is born. Acquired Hearing Loss could occur during neonatal, infantal period and later on. The commonest neonatal cause is jaundice. Most of the children that have jaundice did not develop hearing loss. But if the jaundice is very high and critical, resulting in blood transfusion, then such a child is at risk for hearing loss. Also, if children are born within a month and they start having convulsion, they are at risk. If children are born premature and are not inside incubator or ICU care; these are real factors for hearing loss.
“Then, there are some children that were born with certain abnormalities: abnormality of the head, abnormality of the ears, so these are the syndromic babies.”
“Infections like meningitis, measles, Mump; they are known to be associated with hearing loss, while others are idiopathic, meaning the cause of hearing loss is not yet clear.
“When doctors carry out all the investigations and they discover that this person’s hearing loss does not appear to be due to any of the common things we know, we say is Idiopathic. So that means the actual cause of hearing loss is not well known. In some cases either because of lack of documentation or because of short memory the sufferer and the parent cannot understand or cannot remember exactly what happened.”
Stressing the role of immunisation of babies in preventing hearing loss, he said, “Prevention starts from immunisation. So ensuring that a young person goes through all the immunisation protocols will go a long way in preventing hearing loss like meningitis, mumps, measles among others.
Contributing, Dr Olawale Olubi, a consultant, Ear, Nose and Throats, Head of the team, cochlear implant, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital(LASUTH) also said that neonatal jaundice and neonatal sepsis can cause hearing loss. “In addition to drugs being given for the diseases, so it could be the disease, it could be the drug being used that is causing the hearing loss. Others are Neonatal diseases.”
He also called for a law to enforce early detection in the country. “That means, for instance, legislation on neonatal hearing screening; those who have this hearing loss as at when they are born should quickly detect them by doing screening at birth. Once you can do screening at birth, you detect them and you can actually monitor them. So, legislation on neonatal hearing screening and funding are the things that the government can do for us.”