Has your baby been screened for hearing impairment?

October 25, 2010 by  
Filed under HEARING

Hearing impairment is something that is not easily discernible in adults, much more in babies and little children. Studies have shown that even the slightest hearing impairment can translate to behavioural and learning difficulties in children. Those who suffer from more serious hearing problems can face a lifetime of speech and language deficits, poor academic performance and social and psychological problems. This is because even though the child can hear, he or she is missing some details of what is going on the environment, but cannot understand what is going on. It is thus important that children be screened early in life for hearing problems.

Hearing impairments may be congenital or acquired. Thus, screening for hearing loss should start early, in fact, right after the delivery of the baby. This means that a baby is screened before it leaves the hospital or the maternity clinic.

The two most commonly used hearing screening procedures for babies are (source: American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASLHA):

The initial result of the screening is “pass” or “fail”. Those who pass are considered free from hearing impairment till the next screening. Those who fail require an intensive evaluation by an expert such as an audiologist or an ear specialist. They will be closely monitored for progression of the impairment plus other auditory-related effects.

In the clinical report of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) entitle “Hearing Assessment in Infants and Children: Recommendations Beyond Neonatal Screening”:

“… researchers have developed an algorithm to assist pediatricians determine the course of treatment when a hearing screening indicates hearing loss in children from infants to 18 years of age. Confirmed abnormal hearing test results require ongoing evaluation and intervention by a team of specialists including an audiologist, otolaryngologist, speech-language pathologists and teachers. At least one-third of children with hearing loss will also have a coexisting condition, so they should continue to be monitored for developmental and behavioral disorders and referred for additional evaluation when necessary.”

Hearing loss in American teens on the rise

October 6, 2010 by  

Hearing problems is on the rise and the increase is most evident among teens. A new research study by scientists at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston revealed that there is a 31% rise in the number of adolescents with some form of hearing loss. The auditory problems are sometimes mild and barely noticeable but they are there.  And previous have shown that among the young, even minor hearing losses can affect communication and social skills, thus educational achievement.

The researchers examined data of over 4500 participants of the NHANES aged 12 to 19 years old and compared data from 1988 to 1984 vs. data from 2005 to 2006.

According to lead author Dr. Josef Shargorodsky:

“About 1 out of 5 adolescents in the United States has at least some evidence of hearing loss. Moreover, about 1 out of 20 has at least mild hearing loss.”

The authors believe that noise is a major factor in this increase in hearing loss.

Indeed, exposure of adolescents to noise has increased in recent years, what with widespread use of portable music devices such as MP3 players and even mobile phones.

This is probably exacerbated in adulthood by increased risk for cardiovascular disease and unhealthy lifestyle.

In another study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, risk factors for hearing loss in American adults have been identified as environmental and lifestyle factors as well as concomitant diseases.

Environmental factors are mainly exposure to noise which results in high-frequency hearing loss.

What is interesting is the fact that the lifestyle factor smoking also results in hearing loss, both at high and low frequencies. In addition, hypertension and diabetes, too, can lead to high- and low-frequency hearing loss. The authors believe that the link between cardiovascular risk factors and hearing loss is due to damage to the cochlea as a consequence of microvascular insufficiency. Cochlea is the snail-shaped structure in the inner ear where sound waves are converted into nerve impulses. Damage to the cochlea results in impairment of transmission of those nerve impulses.  The presence of cardiovascular risk factors in addition to exposure to high levels of noise can exacerbate problems of hearing loss.

Your MP3 player and hearing loss

September 29, 2009 by  
Filed under HEARING

headsetI remember once seeing this sticker on a loud speaker in a snack bar: “If it’s too loud, then you’re too old.”

Am I too old? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe I can simply discern what is loud from the norm. Many people nowadays can’t tell anymore because their ears may be damaged.  In fact, 90% of men aged 60 or older have some form of hearing problems.

“Hearing loss is so prevalent that it has become the norm”

according to Dr. Roland Eavey who together with his team at Vanderbilt University conducted the 2002 MTV.com survey That study revealed that adolescents and young people consciously exposed themselves for loud music as a form of entertainment. At that time, the main exposure is from attending concnerts and going to discos or clubs. Nowadays it is the MP3 player.

The results of the 2nd MTV.com survey conducted in 2007 is out and the prognosis does not look good. Here are some figures to ponder upon:

  • About 2,500 people participated in the survey and of these, almost 50% of these experienced symptoms such as tinnitus after exposure to loud music.
  • 32% of respondents think hearing loss is a big problem (vs. 8% in the 1st survey)
  • 75% of respondents owned an MP3 player.
  • 24% of respondent used their music player for more than 15 hours a week.
  • Almost 50% use 75 to 100% of the volume capacity of their player.
  • 89% turn up their player’s sound if external sounds such as traffic noise compete with the music loudness.

musicWhat about awareness?

Awareness of the risks of loud music has improved since the last survey but is still low.

Interestingly, the survey respondents believe that the most informative source of information about prevention of hearing loss is the media whereas health care professionals are the least likely source of information.

 However, those who are fond of loud music, young or old, would turn down the sound or use ear protection if told by a health care professionals of the risks. In other words, health care providers have a big capacity to alter behaviour that can prevent hearing loss.

According to Eavey

“Since our last study we have learned that enough people still are not yet aware, but that more are becoming aware, especially through the help of the media…We have learned that the audience does use public health behaviours like sunscreen, designated drivers and seatbelts and that the health care community is the least likely source of informing patients about hearing loss, so we have an excellent opportunity to start educating patients.”

He is urging his fellow health care providers to help spread the word and the key messages are:

  • Hearing loss due to loud music is preventable.
  • Hearing loss is usually permanent and irreversible.
  • Even hearing aids might not be able to help.

Considering the potential role of the media in hearing loss prevention, I think it is commendable that MTV.com is supporting such studies. Now that’s what I call corporate social respnosibility.

Photo credit: stock.xchng

May is Better Hearing and Speech Month

May 6, 2009 by  
Filed under HEARING

better-hearing-and-speechOur sense of hearing is one of the most important of our senses and hearing impairment can have a detrimental effect on our way of life. Here some figures to ponder upon:

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that in 2005, 278 million people worldwide have moderate to severe hearing impairment in both ears.
  • 80% of hearing-impaired people live in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC).
  • 50% of cases of hearing impairment is avoidable through prevention, early diagnosis, and management.
  • In the US alone, more than 5 million children have a language, speech or hearing disorder.
  • In LMIC, less than 1 in 40 people who need a hearing aid can afford one.

Hearing and speech problems most often go together. These disorders may be due to birth and genetic defects, illnesses or injuries. The earlier hearing disorders occur in a child’s life, the higher are their impact in the child’s development, especially language and speech development as well as gross motoric skills and balance. Later on, it can affect the child’s social and learning skills. Like in most disorders, the key to successful resolution is early detection and intervention. Since 1927, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) has observed the Better Hearing and Speech Month (BHSM) every May. The month is focused on raising awareness of speech and hearing disorders, especially among parents. Many parents are not adept in identifying such kind of disorders in their children, much more knowing what to do once they observe a problem. BHSM “provide parents with information about communication disorders to help ensure that they do not seriously affect their children’s ability to learn, socialize with others, and be successful in school.”

According to ASHA, some signs of speech and language disorders in children are:

As mother of twin boys who were born premature and brought up bilingually, I am always on alert whether my children’s language skills are developing normally on not.

The most common signs of hearing disorders in children are (source ASHA):

Normally, the pediatrician or the family doctor should check children right from infancy for hearing problems. It is also recommended that starting the age of 5 or at the latest, right before school entry, children should undergo a general physical exam which should include eye tests but also hearing and speech screenings.

The professionals who can help:

  • An Ears, Nose & Throat (ENT) specialist (also called otolaryngologist) is specialized in disorders of these organs. However, only a small fraction of his or her work has something to do with the ears of hearing.
  • An otologists (sometimes called neurotologists) is usually an ENT who has taken additional training or studies to specialized mainly with the ear and hearing disorders.
  • An audiologist is non-medical professional who is specialized in the non-medical management of hearing and balance disorders. He or she is not a doctor but can conduct hearing screenings and perform rehabilitation therapies and refer patients to a medical specialist
  • A speech-language pathologist can conduct evaluations and diagnosis of speech and language disorders as well as conduct therapies and rehabilitation problems.

Can hearing loss predict stroke?

July 2, 2008 by  

Having problems with your hearing? Maybe it is time to check your stroke risk.

A nation-wide research study in Taiwan based on health insurance records indicates that sudden loss of hearing might be an early sign of risk to stroke. In fact, this symptom may be able to predict the actual stroke two years before it happens.

According to a news release of the American Heart Association:

Five-year follow-up data on 1,423 patients hospitalized for an acute episode of sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL) showed they were more than one-and-a-half times more likely to suffer a stroke than a control group of 5,692 patients who had been hospitalized for an appendectomy.

8.7 % (621 patients) of all the study patients had strokes during the 5-year follow-up period. Of these, 12.7 % were diagnosed with SSNHL. Only 7.8 % of patients in the control group had stroke in the same follow-up period.

“The inner ear is especially sensitive to transient ischemia because of its high energy requirement and lack of adequate collateral blood supply…Consequently, sudden sensorineural hearing loss appears to be an early sign of impending anterior inferior cerebellar artery infarction.”

These findings

“suggest that SSNHL can be an early warning sign of impending stroke. [The authors] suggest that SSNHL patients should undergo a comprehensive hematologic and neurological examination to help clinicians identify those potentially at risk for stroke developing in the near future.”

However, the authors caution that the results are very preliminary. This is the first study to investigate the link between cardiovascular event and hearing loss. More extensive studies are necessary to confirm the findings of this study. Other factors related to stroke risks such tobacco use, body mass index, heredity, and the medical history of heart disease and hypertension should also be considered in future studies.

Hearing loss is not an uncommon condition. According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, one in ten Americans has a hearing loss. It may be due to a lot of causes namely infection, or structural damage due to tumors, ruptured eardrums, nerve damage. Some medications may also cause temporary hearing loss as side effects.



Herng-Ching Lin et al. Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss Increases the Risk of Stroke. A 5-Year Follow-Up Study: Stroke 26 June 2008.


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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.