Screening to trace hearing loss among babies a must - GulfToday

Screening to trace hearing loss among babies a must


The photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter

A rhinologist and a skull-based surgeon in Dubai has raised the need for parents to be aware of their newborns having to undergo neonatal screening, specifically for congenital hearing loss.

“Neonatal screening for hearing loss is mandatory to detect babies with congenital hearing loss. Ear protection is essential for people exposed to loud noise. Audiological hearing assessment for patients suspecting hearing loss and/or with a positive family history (of hearing loss) is crucial,” said Dr Haitham Morsi.

Gulf Today interviewed the otorhinolaryngology specialist as May is the “Better Hearing & Speech Month.”

Moreover, the US-based private global hearing technology company Starkey Technologies recently launched in the UAE two devices developed and embedded with artificial intelligence (AI) that will be of more help to adults already suffering from age-old related hearing loss.

The gadgets, known as the Livio AI with encoded 27 languages including Arabic and Healthable, “are all approved by the local governments in the UAE,” Starkey Middle East/Africa FZCO director Giscard Bechara told this reporter.

Morsi claimed that 30 to 40 per cent of his patients per month, at Canadian Specialist Hospital in Dubai, complain of hearing loss.

His oldest patient is 85 years old diagnosed to be suffering from bilateral sensorineural hearing loss because of some issues in his inner ear and the vestibucochlear nerve: “He is currently wearing bilateral hearing aids. He is satisfied with his hearing.

“The youngest patient I examined was a one-year-old girl. She underwent bilateral cochlear implant surgery because she was diagnosed with bilateral congenital hearing loss. She is all grown up now and doing well,” Morsi said.

Congenital hearing loss may be hereditary or a result of complications and other factors “present pre-natal or at the time of birth.”

“The reason why parents have to be aware of the hearing tests their newborns have to go through,” he repeated.

Meanwhile, the Enaya maternal/newborn/infant website of the Department of Health-Abu Dhabi has the following reads for its users:

n “Newborn screening is important because a baby can be born with a health condition but may not know any sign of the problem at first.”

n “If a health condition is found early with newborn screening, it can often be treated. It makes it possible to avoid more serious health problems later in life.”

Furthermore, the website mentions two diagnostics that detect how newborns react or respond to sound. One is through an earpiece and one is through three small sensors attached to a computer. 

On the AI hearing aids devices, Bechara claimed these were developed since according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 466 million people worldwide have disabling hearing loss with 16 million affected in the Middle East.

“Another upcoming challenge is that 1.1 billion people between the ages of 12 and 35 years are at risk of hearing loss due to exposure to noise in recreational (areas),” Bechara said.

WHO had approximated that by 2050, over 900 million across the globe would have disabling hearing loss. The Healthable “helps in brain health tracking, by the measurement of the number of hours the person was socially active, whether meeting people and talking to them, listening to various settings at the workplace and (on social environment).”

Bechara explained: “Older adults with hearing loss experience a 30 to 40 per cent faster decline in cognitive abilities than peers with normal hearing. Wearing hearing aids can slow the progression of age-related cognitive decline by up to 75 per cent. There are studies showing that social interaction is the number one thing that can slow down cognitive decline and dementia.” On the Livio AI, Bechara cited research studies which concluded that “every 11 seconds an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall and every 19 minutes an older adult dies from a fall.”

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