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Not Talking? Can The Child Hear?

Speech and language are dependent on the ability to hear.

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Language development and speech are dependent on the ability to hear. The first test that is indicated for a child with speech delay is a hearing test.  This is standard practice in the US. We also have a newborn hearing screening program. Program availability and access to resources varies from country to country in Western countries and in the developing world.

Background Info in the US -
Hearing Loss in Children and Babies-Boston Children's Hosp Website

 "The National Institutes of Health estimate that 12,000 babies are born each year in the United States with a hearing impairment. It is estimated that serious hearing loss occurs in about one to three of every 1,000 healthy newborns, and in two to four of every 100 babies in newborn intensive care units.

Without screening or testing, hearing loss may not be noticed until the baby is more than 1 year old.
If hearing loss is not detected until later years, there will be no stimulation of the brain's hearing centers. This can affect the maturation and development of hearing, and can delay speech and language.

Beyond the newborn period, the parents may be the first to detect hearing loss in their child. Unfortunately, many children with severe hearing loss from birth are not diagnosed until 2 1/2 or 3 years of age. Other children—with a less severe hearing loss—may not be diagnosed until 4 years of age. Identifying a baby's hearing loss early helps the baby to learn language on time.
Social and emotional development and success in school may also be affected.

Info from a WHO 2010 report on -
Newborn Screening Current Issues and Guiding Principles

Southeast Asia In almost all of the countries in this region, there has been no serious organized effort to set up newborn and infant hearing screening programmes.
     India does have a program
     Following the launch of the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Deafness, India has developed its own protocol for infant hearing screening, combining both institution-based and community-based modalities. It has now launched the programme in approximately 65 districts. The national government also provides support for hearing aid fitting and therapy, while many private centres provide cochlear implants.

Nigeria has a program.
 Newborn hearing screening in Nigeria26
The secondary prevention strategy of screening infants for the early detection of conditions that cannot be addressed by primary prevention is rare in Nigeria – as it is in many developing countries. The high prevalence of hearing loss (about 14%) documented by one 1995 study conducted among school-age children in regular schools, as well as a 2002 national population survey, culminated in the first early childhood hearing detection and intervention policy for Nigeria in 2004.

(I could not find info on a program in Tanzania.  Does anyone have info on this?)

Steps needed to help children with hearing loss -
1) Educate parents and caregivers that delayed speech may be secondary to hearing loss so that they will think of this and take steps to test for it.  (if services exist and they know about them.)
2) Identify services available in different communities and share this information with caregivers of young children.
3) Provide a pathway for families to access these services.

The Starkey Hearing Foundation is doing amazing work globally, identifying need, training local workers, and providing hearing aids for children and adults with hearing loss.  

Can we design programs to teach advocacy to parents so that they can push for services in their communities, countries, bringing important child health issues to the forefront of the healthcare agenda?  Can we connect parents to programs that already exist?


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