Congenital hearing loss in newborn babies is a common birth defect, and affects approximately three in every 1,000 babies. But before you start worrying, it’s important to know that the sooner a hearing issue is detected and treated in a baby, the higher their chances are of keeping up with developmental milestones. Sneha Thakkar, senior audiologist at hearLIFE Clinic Dubai, advises that all parents should aim to have a newborn hearing test included in their birth plan. As these tests are not mandatory in private hospitals, they can sometimes be overlooked. “A newborn hearing screening is a standard, simple and painless procedure that only requires a few minutes of your time,” explains Thakkar. “Ideally, it should be performed at the hospital following birth, which will help identify any hearing issues your baby may have.” She also advises having regular hearing screenings to ensure a timely diagnosis and treatment if needed.
The recent ‘Help Me Hear’ initiative, launched by the Ministry of Health and Prevention, is an important step towards getting all the children of the UAE hearing. With a target to ensure that under-privileged children have access to our hearing world, the initiative also serves
to raise awareness and puts a spotlight on the issue of hearing loss and the importance of having tests. As a critical part of social, emotional and cognitive development, even a mild or partial hearing loss can affect development.
So, what do you do if you suspect a hearing problem in your child? Thakkar says as parents are often the first to sense that their child has a hearing problem, it is important to recognise the signs as early as possible. “Before you even suspect any issues, please be diligent in performing newborn hearing screenings as a first step, and continue to perform hearing screenings regularly,” she says. “Should suspicions arise at any point in between these screenings, the best advice is to see an ENT specialist or highly qualified audiologist who will help you determine what the issue is, and the best plan of action.” It’s certainly sound advice and we’re listening.
hearLIFE Clinic, Dubai Healthcare City, www.hearlifeclinic.ae (04 457 3099).