Dubai, UAE: The Ministry of Health is planning to make screening to detect and assess the magnitude of hearing loss for newborns mandatory in the country.
Dr Hussain Abdul Rahman Al Rand, Assistant Undersecretary for health centres and clinics at the Ministry of Health told Gulf News: “At present this proposal is being deliberated by the Cabinet and will become a law very soon. As of now, this screening is mandatory at all government hospitals.”
He was talking after the release of a new hearing impairment survey conducted in the UAE. Health professionals in the UAE have acknowledged that at least one in 25 babies born in the country suffer from some degree of hearing impairment. With this level of hearing impairment, a cochlear implant company sponsored a pilot study to ascertain the prevalence of the problem.
According to this survey conducted in a sample population of 523 respondents from all nationalities in the age group of 18-40 years, nearly four per cent indicated a family history of hearing problems. Nearly four per cent had sons and daughters with hearing problems that was diagnosed after the age of two and nearly 35 per cent respondents indicated a family history of hearing issues where the impairment was diagnosed at the age of one. Only 56 per cent of respondents believe that hearing impairment is a severe health issue.
Presenting the results David Raetz, CEO of Med-El Middle East pointed out that the prime reason for the ignorance was a lack of awareness and education on the topic. Emphasising on the need of early intervention, Dr Jamal Kassouma, Consultant ENT surgeon at Dubai Hospital said: “If a child is diagnosed with hearing impairment before the onset of speech and is fitted with hearing aids, then he does not require speech therapy. But if parents remain ignorant of the problem which is quite common until later stages then the child requires complete rehabilitation and speech therapy. At the moment the approximate number of people affected by mild, moderate to profound hearing loss in the UAE remains between three to five per cent which is higher than the world average of one per cent suffering from hearing loss globally.”
Dr Kassouma added that some of the main ways to prevent hearing loss was making pre-marital genetic screening mandatory among Emiratis. “UAE nationals must avoid cosanguinous marriages because even if they do not manifest a family genetic trait of let’s say hearing loss, both the husband and wife will be carriers of the recessive gene which can reflect in their progeny. Once hearing loss is detected early the ENT physician needs to determine the loss is mild, moderate or profound. In all cases first a hearing aid needs to be fitted. In case of total loss the patient needs to go for a cochlear implant.”
Findings of the survey:
© Gulf NewsJan 2016