How will parents know if their baby has a hearing problem at the time of birth? As we know in foreign countries newborns get a hearing screening before going home, but here it's missing... isn't it that much important to check their hearing within the first weeks of their life?
Yes early screening is important but only high risk screening is possible because of lack of diagnostic centre's like in newborns if parents observe lack of response to sounds ,or delay in speech or poor performance in school.
Can deafness from birth be cured? We get so many questions about whether or not there is a cure, or a way to quickly and easily restore or repair hearing levels to such people, is there any possibility....?
Majority of the deafness of birth fall in the spectrum of Sensorineural hearing loss and qualify for cochlear implantation which restores their hearing but till such time hearing aids can offer great help as a rescue. We offer hearing aids for less than 15 years under NPPCD (National Programme for Prevention and Control of Deafness) of whom I am Divisional Nodal officer.
How hearing loss occurs or tell us what signs and symptoms of hearing loss may include. Besides this, please tell us what are the most common reasons due to which someone's hearing is damaged?
In early years besides Sensorineural hearing loss Conductive hearing loss occurs because of infection in middle ear and secretory otitis media due to collection of fluid in middle ear are also common. The same applies to middle and later age groups but with a different incidence. All symptomatic patients like those with hardness of hearing or ear discharge need to be investigated and many of them can benefit from various surgical options available
You are also nodal officer of NPPCD, tell us what has your Organization done so far regarding awareness, tell us which programmes your organization is conducting (or has so far conducted) on mass level to aware people in this regard? And tell us what do you think could be done further to bring people closer regarding this?
Under the NPPCD of which I am Divisional nodal Officer we are offering screening services like , PTA, OAE, BERA for early diagnosis of hearing loss at JLNM Hospital. Also surgeries like Tympanoplasties , tympanomastoid surgeries and myrigotomies with ventilation tubes are routinely done. Also we are doing CME’s and awareness programmes for the healthcare workers and common masses for sensitization. Also these facilities are being planned for all districts of the UT in coming years. Due to covid there were interruptions but In Shaa Allah things will streamline again.
As you know our technologies have become smarter and more connected, to us and to each other, the line between real and virtual blurs. Simply I can say we are living in an advanced world. We want to know that which machines or medicines are available for such people so that their way of living will be made a bit easier. Furthermore, for parents who are considering a medical intervention, what have you learned about their promise and drawbacks?
Cochlear implantation has offered a great hope for the early age hearing loss patients and its benefits for post lingual patients are also there . For those who have middle ear infections tympanomastoid surgeries are indicated and in expert hands greatly help patients. Also hearing aids are other options if surgery is contraindicated or refused by patients.
For most families of children with hearing loss, the first important step toward hearing health will be having their infant or child fitted with hearing aids. But the question is as they (Child) grow, do they need periodic hearing exams and new hearing aids with time or later on, they get back on the normal track?
Yes till a definitive cochlear implantation (which is a costly surgery if not supported by various schemes) is planned, the hearing aids remain an extremely beneficial option and nowadays highly digitalized one are available but the parents need counseling for their effective use.
World Hearing Day is held on 3 March each year to raise awareness on how to prevent deafness and hearing loss and promote ear and hearing care across the world, but do you think this particular day benefits such people? Even from the last three years, the COVID-19 pandemic is causing significant loss of life, disrupting livelihoods, and threatening the advances in health as well as in progress, was your department able to celebrate this particular day during these three years?
3rd March as a World Hearing Day can be very important for creating awareness about hearing loss , its diagnosis and management since it is being recognized as major disease causing physical disability worldwide. Yes the covid pandemic has certainly affected the Control of Deafness programme but hopefully thing are getting back to normal and for good.
Studying medical history creates an awareness that what is often hailed as new is not so and what is old appears again in a new guise, often aided by an advanced technology. But when it comes to ENT, what kind of advancements are day by day taking place in this particular field? Furthermore, Is the way of treatment (or medicines) as old as it was some 30 or 40 years ago, or somehow we can say it has changed with time being?
The advent of cochlear implantation and digitalized hearing aids are changing the whole course of how this disability was managed in the past, but because of the cost effects the benefits of these to the patients in the developing world need financial support mechanisms. Also stem cell research in hearing cells can benefit the growing old age population of Sensorineural hearing loss in future In Shaa Allah.
What are some easy ways to protect our ears and our hearing health? Even, it’s common for people to use cotton swabs to clean wax out of their ear canal, is it advisable? Even the neckband, earpod market is booming nowadays. No wonder then we find most people with headphones plugged in their ears, listening to loud music for longer periods of time. I'm also an example. I’m myself using earpods. These devices use to block out outside sounds, so do they make us vulnerable to hearing issues? What is safer to use?
You see nature has kept a limit for usage of every organ, so like the servicing of our automobiles or any machine periodically our ears also need the same care. We should avoid loud sounds and continuous usage of modern day hearing gadgetry to allow our ears to replenish themselves. Also unnecessary fiddling with ear buds or other means should be strictly avoided. Better to consult a specialist if need arises. Yes using all these ear gadgetry for prolonged periods will have harmful effects since ears are very sensitive sense organs. Limiting their usage as much as possible and alternating between ears can help maintain hearing.
As we know Parental anxiety is commonplace. What have you learned about the anxieties of the parents you have encountered with, and how it shapes their decision-making?
Yes the parental anxiety is a huge factor and needs to be properly addressed with counseling and hope because the post surgical management especially in cochlear implantation needs post implant rehabilitation which is quite tedious and often underestimated by parents.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Lastly hearing is one of the essences of life and its proper care in all stages of life is important for our normal healthy living and this day should help us in this resolve.
(As told to Azhar Hajini,famous TV anchor
(DR. Shafqat Islam is ENT Consultant and HOD Department of ENT JLNM Hospital who is also Divisional Nodal Officer NPPCD (National Programme for Prevention Control of Deafness)