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Early detection checks hearing loss

Arvinder Kaur | December 09, 2005


'Could you repeat what you said?'


Sounds -- pun unintended -- like a hearing loss problem.

Doctors say around 10 to 12 per cent of the Indian population suffers from some degree of hearing loss. Delays in detection and taboos attached to using hearing aids are further compounding the problem. "Now, alarmed at the numbers, the government has chalked out a National Hearing Conservation Programme to help early detection and treatment," says Dr T S Sidhu, head, department of ENT, Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, New Delhi.

"Various surveys are being conducted nationwide to ascertain the extent of the problem," he adds. "Once the National Hearing Conservation Programme is announced, we will have specialised doctors and funding to deal with problems related to hearing loss." The programme is being designed along the lines of the National Blindness Control Programme, which has proved to be a success.

Hearing loss is the most neglected ailment today, especially in rural areas where there are no specialised doctors available at the primary level. "Most of the time, these people are unable to reach the secondary or tertiary level," says Dr Sidhu, noting that untreated middle ear infections, poor check-ups, wax in the ears, bathing in dirty water and upper respiratory tract problems only make things worse.

"Surprisingly, the situation is no better in metros," says Dr Rajiv Nangia, ENT consultant, Fortis Jessa Ram Hospital, New Delhi. "Parents visit paediatricians or physicians for ear ailments, but never an ENT specialist. Surveys have shown that only five to seven per cent of people suffering from ear ailments or hearing loss are willing to go to an ENT specialist."

Then there are those taboos related to hearing aids. Young people are, first of all, not ready to accept the fact. Secondly, they shy away from wearing aids. While a number of cosmetic aids are now available, their price is also a prohibiting factor.

Educating the masses about this neglected ailment holds the key to countering it.

Loud music and noise pollution aren't helping. Also, people are living longer and those above 50 years do develop some degree of hearing loss.

"In children, congenital hearing loss varies from one to four per 1000 live births. Here, too, it is vital to detect the problem as early as possible," says Dr A K Lahiri, head, ENT, Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi.

Parents, especially in big cities, are willing to get hearing aids for their children if necessary, but that alone isn't the solution. First find out the degree of hearing loss, then chalk out the treatment strategy -- hearing aid, surgery or, as a last resort, a cochlear implant.

"Rehabilitation, which includes speech therapy, has to be done too, so a child's speech and hearing can be coordinated and he can lead a normal life," says Dr Lahiri. "Unfortunately," he adds, "even big hospitals lack speech training and rehabilitative centres."

This is a problem that only gets worse. Urgent steps are necessary. Which is why you shouldn't put off that check-up.

© Copyright 2005 PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.

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Number of User Comments: 5

Sub: Need more info.

First I thank for making this article. But some more information could be added. Like more causes for this and how can we prevent and ...

Posted by Prabu

Sub: hearing loss problem

sir, iam student of ph.d at imtech,chandigarh, my hearing loss start from last 2 yearloss person.That time i m using hearing aid.but with aid i ...

Posted by santosh

Sub: Hearing loss.

Dear writer, I shall be thankful if e-mail id.of some of those Dr. is sent to me as I am also suffering from severe loss ...

Posted by rameshsancheti

Sub: noise pollution

Dear Arvinder Kaur, I did like your article. But if you need to know more regarding noise pollution we can share with you. We have ...

Posted by mahesh

Sub: wrong references

i am unhappy to see that you have collected information about hearing loss and its detection from ENT surgeons whereas the professionals who deal with ...

Posted by kamlesh


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