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October 23, 2002

16 per cent of children have hearing impairment -- study

From: Jamaica Observer, Jamaica
Oct. 23, 2002

Observer Reporter
Wednesday, October 23, 2002

A new study has found that about 16.2 per cent of Jamaican children, aged four to 10 years, had a hearing impairment.

Dr Nicholas Dorah, one of three researchers from the child health section of the University of the West Indies (UWI) who carried out the study, gave preliminary details of the findings at a media breakfast yesterday at the UWI's Council Room.

The forum launched the Faculty of Medical Sciences' 11th annual research conference to run between November 6 and 8, in which full details of the hearing loss study and other medical findings and innovations will be disclosed and discussed.

Between 1998 and 2000, screening tests were done on a random sample of children, chosen by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica via a national survey. The children, divided into two groups, were screened for hearing loss using a screening audiometer. One group of the children was seen at the University Hospital of the West Indies and a second group was visited in the individual members' communities.

One hundred and forty-eight children from 14 parishes formed the first group and out of this number 16.2 per cent or 24 were found to have mild hearing impairment. In the second group consisting of 143 children from six parishes, 35 per cent had mild impairment.

Of the 24 cases identified with mild impairment in the first group, eight were impaired in one ear only and in the second group 16 were impaired in both ears. Another significant discovery was that among those with problems in both ears, most of their parents, 75 per cent, did not know there was a problem with their child's hearing, Dorah said.

An analysis of their socio-economic status showed that the majority of children with hearing impairment, 58.4 per cent, belonged to the lower socio-economic group.

Problems of hearing loss could affect the child's development. It has long been recognised that hearing is essential for the development of language, Dorah said. "Significant hearing loss is one of the most common major abnormalities present at birth and if undetected will impede speech, language and cognitive development."