Sunday, February 21, 2010

'Please get your child's hearing tested at birth'

'Please get your child's hearing tested at birth'

Mumbai: Even though hearing impairment is the most common defect affecting millions of newborns every year, what most parents don’t know is that it can be detected and remedied at birth itself. Doctors
say that waiting until the child is 3-4 years old before getting him/her tested is too late.

If ignored, such children even lose their ability to speak over a period of time. To prevent this, the Education Audiology and Research (EAR) Society is trying to create awareness at hospitals to detect as many cases at infancy.

The EAR society uses the auditory verbal method, and not the lip-reading technique, to teach hearing impaired children.
They have recently started working with hospitals to detect cases among newborns. Pervin Mehta, the director of the society, who has been working on the project, feels that early intervention can help hearing impaired children speak normally.

EAR is currently working with paediatric departments of Bombay Hospital, Cama Hospital and St George’s Hospital.

Mehta said, “Many parents come to us when their children are three or four years old. Though it is not impossible, it becomes difficult for us to help them retain normal speech. If their disability is detected at infancy, then with the help of hearing aids, we ensure that they lead a normal life.”

EAR conducts newborn hearing screening at all public hospitals. In case of a defect, parents are asked to visit the centre for further tests.

However, parents don’t turn up for a follow-up due to lack of awareness. “They refuse to believe that their child could be suffering any disability.

“We are now planning to bridge that gap by approaching parents in slums as well,” Mehta said. EAR is planning to take the help of social workers.

According to Ashok Rathod, the head of paediatrics, JJ Hospital, early intervention can definitely help such children. “Hearing aids at an early age can ensure normal speech for such children,” said Rathod,” he said.