Canadian Medical welcomes new revisions of the childhood preventative hearing assessmentArticle
06. 03. 2019
On the evening of the World Hearing Day (3rd of March), representatives of the Ministry of Health, along with experts from the field, joined to support a new approach in the prevention of hearing loss and other hearing impairments in children. Based on their recommendations, a professional examination of the child’s auditory system by an ENT specialist will now be a part of the 5 year-old preventative examination. The child should be referred to the ENT specialist by their paediatrician during their preventative 5-year check-up, or ultimately, the parent may request an ENT appointment on behalf of their child. This eliminates the possible risk that the child won’t thrive at school, simply because they can’t understand their teacher.
The first hearing assessment (a.k.a. newborn hearing screening) is performed by ENT doctors on newborn babies. Based on the statistics, one to two children out of a thousand newborns in the Czech Republic have a severe hearing impairment: that’s 100 to 200 children every year. A moderate defect is detected by doctors in 600 to 1200 children each year. However, not all hearing impairments can be discovered during the newborn hearing screening some come on later in life, others can develop in severity over time.
“Parents or teachers may not have any idea that their child has a hearing impairment. They may unconsciously start to raise their voice when speaking to the child, or at school, the child will naturally sit in a place where they can hear the best, so the teachers may not notice anything out of the ordinary.” said professor Viktor Chrobok, head of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology and Head and Neck surgery at the Charles University Faculty of Medicine in Hradec Kralove, and the Chairman of the Czech Society of Otorhinolaryngology and Head and Neck surgery.
Up until now, the 5 year-old paediatric hearing assessment still consists of the so-called “whispering method”, however, many experts agree that this test is inadequate and unreliable because it may not be sufficient enough to pick up all the hearing difficulties. An audiometric examination with an ENT specialist is considered to be a much more thorough and accurate examination.
“As a general practitioner, I am happy that this change came about. Nevertheless, it is critical that parents don’t underestimate the importance of a hearing exam, as they are the first ones that can notice the onset of any difficulties, and we, as doctors, can then help them in time, perhaps in the scope of a general check up.” said Canadian Medical paediatrician, Dr. Petr Žáček, M.B.A.
Yet most hearing problems can be resolved simply and effectively. For example, hearing loss is most often caused by an enlarged pharyngeal tonsil (adenoid), which presses onto the hearing tube and produces discharge into the middle ear. This problem is the cause of nearly 90 percent of all hearing defects in children, yet it is quite easily solved, by a simple surgical removal of the adenoid and draining of the discharge.
Doctors emphasise that the earlier a hearing defect is recognised, the earlier the child can get the required care which reduces the possible future complications associated. When a child doesn’t hear well enough, starting as early as in second grade, they may get worse results than their peers because they simply don’t understand their teachers. As the child gets older, any hearing difficulty will only become a greater burden and disadvantage in their education.