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March 7, 2021

Experts call for early diagnosis of hearing loss in children


March 7, 2021

The Department of ENT, & Head and Neck Surgery at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center (JPMC) recently organised a number of activities, including a webinar, to raise awareness of hearing care to mark World Hearing Day 2021.

The events held under the theme ‘Hearing Care for All’, was attended by a large number of ENT surgeons, paediatricians, primary care physicians, medical students, teachers and staff.

The event featured awareness lectures on how to prevent deafness and hearing loss and promote hearing care and treatment

Speaking during the webinar, Dr Abdul Razzaq Dogar, senior consultant and assistant professor at the Department of ENT, JPMC, said: “We are focusing on early hearing impairment prevention in patients by adopting a three-phase programme: newborn screening prior to mother’s discharge after delivery; rescreening of infants during their first vaccination at two months; and children are also screened prior to starting school. We also have a separate programme to screen adults above 50 years of age.”

He further said: “One of the most diagnosed conditions treated at the unit is sensorineural hearing loss. More than 1,000 children and adults are treated for sensorineural hearing loss every year at the JPMC ENT Department. The department provides a comprehensive diagnosis and treatment programme, caring for adults and children who are experiencing hearing loss.

“The early diagnosis of hearing loss in children is especially important, as hearing impairments can lead to delayed development of listening and spoken language skills. Our Early Detection of Hearing Loss programme has screened a large number of cases in 2020 even in the tough situation of the Covid-19 outbreak.”

Acquired sensorineural hearing loss, which occurs after birth, can be caused by a number of factors, including ageing, noise (noise-induced hearing loss), disease or infection, and trauma. In contrast, congenital sensorineural hearing loss, a condition that is present at birth, can be either inherited or caused by abnormal development during pregnancy.

“The ENT Department has fitted over 5,000 patients with hearing aids,” said Prof Sameer Ahmed Qureshi, head of the department at the JPMC.

“We are also conducting a comprehensive study to find more about the congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection which is a major cause of bilateral and unilateral sensorineural hearing loss in Pakistani children,” he added.

“Since 3rd March, 2011 till now 3rd March 2021, there have been 40,000 visits at the ENT Department

related to hearing loss, including new and follow-up patients.”

Guest speaker Dr S Akbar Abbas, consultant ENT, head & neck surgeon and cochlear implant expert at the Aga Khan University Hospital, said: “According to WHO estimates, there are approximately 10 million hearing- impaired citizens in Pakistan.”

“People with severe to profound hearing loss will be unable to hear well even with hearing aids. In such cases, cochlear implant may be helpful. However, these implants are very expensive and may cost Rs1.5 million to Rs2.5 million,” he said.

“Cochlear implant is a surgically implantable electronic device meant to restore hearing of individual with severe to profound hearing loss. This device can be used both in adults who have lost hearing after acquiring adequate speech. It has also excellent results in neonates with congenital hearing loss or who have lost hearing soon after birth.”

More than 600,000 individuals with severe to profound hearing loss have been given this implant worldwide. In Pakistan it is estimated that close to 8,000 implants have been done.

In Pakistan, cochlear implantation started in 2004 in Lahore and then in Karachi at the Aga Khan University Hospital. In Pakistan, as of now we do not have a well-defined system of cochlear implant provision to neonates and adults. As an initial step, the government has made some efforts for partial compensation through the Bait ul Maal fund.

Dr Hurtamina Khan, consultant ENT surgeon and assistant professor at the JPMC, also spoke on the occasion.

She stressed the importance of continuing efforts to raise awareness of hearing loss in community and ways to prevent it and to promote early detection as it was the cornerstone of prevention and treatment.