ACTION FOR HEARING LOSS: MAKE A SOUND INVESTMENT

By Sepo Mwikisa

Recently, the world celebrated World Hearing Day on the 3rd of March, 2017 under the World Health Organisation’s theme “Action for hearing loss: make a sound investment.’’ It is estimated that 360 million people in the world live with a disabling hearing loss and up to 5 out of every 1000 children are born deaf or hard of hearing.

Ms Bhavisha Parmar, a senior paediatric audiologist and volunteer from the charity SoundSeekers set up a stand on the day to disseminate information on the impact of hearing loss on children, management of ear wax, 6 steps to healthy ears and also provided free hearing screening. She reveals that during the screening process, 25 percent of those screened had significant hearing impairment which required further management.

Sound Seekers is UK based charity and currently has multiple projects in five African countries, with the overriding aim of helping deaf people to learn and earn. SoundSeekers projects focus on integrating ear and hearing care into existing healthcare systems, building human resource capacity in audiology provision and services, implementing early identification and intervention programmes, increasing awareness of primary ear and hearing care and improving access to education for those with hearing loss.

It is for this reason that Ms. Parmar is in Zambia and with the help of the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) staff and the Lusaka Round Table organization, to establish a paediatric targeted hearing screening programme at the UTH Children’s hospital, formerly known as the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health.

Round Table No.15, a rotary club that has been in existence for over forty years built the speech centre in the 1970’s with the purpose of equipping the clinicians at UTH with infrastructure to carry out paediatric hearing screening and follow up intervention.

 

The Speech and Hearing Centre established by Lusaka Round Table No. 15 in the 1970’s and donated to UTH.

So far the organization has provided brand new sound proof material including carpeting for the testing room and new audiology equipment (funded by SoundSeekers) is expected to arrive in May 2017.

 Bhavisha in the new paediatric hearing test room at the Speech and Hearing Center.

Once the service is up and running, Bhavisha and staff members allocated to the speech and hearing centre, will supervise hearing screening for children who are at risk of hearing loss. Some risk factors involve: crania- facial abnormalities, cerebral malaria, neurodevelopmental disorders and treatment with ototoxic medication (medication that can affect the hearing system).

Ms. Parmar reveals that if hearing loss is detected early, intervention can completely change the quality of a child’s life as well as that of the whole family and community. The speech and hearing centre will house the paediatric audiology centre of excellence to perform advanced hearing testing and hearing aid fitting to those children identified with hearing loss.

In Zambia, SoundSeekers have set up a hearing aid refurbishment programme (HARP) at Beit Cure International hospital where donated hearing aids are sent to be reset and refurbished. These hearing aids can then be fitted to patients who are found to have hearing loss in the audiology clinic at Beit Cure as well as those who are diagnosed with hearing loss at the new audiology unit at UTH. In fact, these hearing aids can also be sent to other countries around Africa at an audiologist’s request.

Ms Bhavisha Parmar (C) and Mrs Dorica (Audiometrician) (L) and  Mrs Victoria Banda (Specialist teacher for the hearing impaired) ( R)   at the University Teaching Hospital on World Hearing Day.

 Ms. Parmar states that this year’s World Hearing Day theme highlights the importance of raising awareness of how cost effective intervention of hearing loss actually is. “Someone with hearing loss will earn less than their normal hearing colleague and they will be twice likely to face unemployment. By providing early hearing screening and early intervention we can help children access education, develop adequate speech, language, improve their confidence and give them many more opportunities in adulthood.”

“Many hearing losses in children and young people are preventable. This is why education of noise damage and general ear health is so important. We aim to continue providing information and raising awareness of the impact of hearing loss alongside setting up this very necessary hearing screening programme. We hope to gain the support of many around UTH as hearing loss impacts a child at every level of development.” she articulates.

Whilst the exchange of knowledge and vital skills are important for the development of programmes such as this, it is imperative that once volunteers like Ms. Parmar leave the country, there is continuity to ensure the success of such programmes and most importantly, active participation in securing the future of hearing impaired children in our country.  Government officials and health professionals all over Zambia need to work together to prioritise audiology in our health care system to create sustainable services and help this important medical field flourish.  Only then can we successfully provide quality support for our vast and fast-growing hearing impaired population.

To follow Bhavisha’s progress in this project please visit her blog: http://www.sound-seekers.org.uk/volunteer-blog-bhavisha/

ENDS…………..