By Vivian Onyebukwa
With Nigeria sharing 2.8 percent of Africa’s burden of 7.5 percent the global persons with disabling hearing impairment or hearing loss, including a prevalence children, experts have urged parents to ensure immunisation of their children to curb the numbers.
Statistics shows that there are 432 million persons with disabling hearing impairment or hearing loss worldwide of which about 7.5 percent are in the Sub-Sahara Africa. The rate of this number in Nigeria is 2.8 percent with a prevalence population with children under the age 15.
However, medical experts have called for strict adherence to immunisation protocol and newborn hearing screen for babies from birth to reduce the huge statistics.
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, told journalists at the event, 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. “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. “There is acquired hearing loss, this happened after the baby is born. Acquired Hearing Loss could occur during neonatal, infantile period and later on. The commonest neonatal cause is jaundice. If jaundice is very high and critical, resulting in blood transfusion, then such a child is at risk for hearing loss.”
The ENT specialist further explained, “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 abnormality: abnormality of the head, abnormality of the ears, so these are the syndromic babies.”
“Infections like meningitis, measles, Mumps; 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 the person’s hearing loss does not appear to be due to any of the common thing 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,” he added.
Olusesi called for immunisation, noting that prevention starts from immunisation. “Ensuring that young person goes through all the immunisation protocol will go a long way in preventing hearing loss caused by meningitis, mumps, measles among others”.
Dr Olawale Olubi, also a consultant, Ear, Nose and Throats (ENT), Head of the team, Cochlear Implant, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital(LASUTH), also said that neonatal jaundice and neonatal sepsis can cause hearing loss.
Olubi therefore, called for a law to enforce early detection in the country, through legislation on neonatal screening.
“That means, for instance, legislation on neonatal 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, screening, and funding are the three things that the government can do for us.”