Prevention of Deafness and Hearing Impairment
With primary prevention, early diagnosis and suitable management, a large percentage of cases involving deafness or hearing impairment can be avoided.
Below are some simple strategies for prevention, provided by the World Health Organization:
- Immunizing children against childhood diseases, including measles, meningitis, rubella and mumps;
- Immunizing of adolescent girls and women of child-bearing age against rubella before pregnancy;
- Screening and treating syphilis and other infections in pregnant women;
- Improving antenatal and perinatal care, including promotion of safe deliveries;
- Avoiding the use of ototoxic drugs, unless prescribed by a qualified physician and properly monitored for correct dosage;
- Referring high risk babies (such as those with family history of deafness, those born with low birth weight or suffering birth asphyxia, jaundice, meningitis etc) for assessment of hearing, diagnosis and treatment, where required;
- Reducing exposure (both occupational and recreational) to loud noises by awareness creation, use of personal protective devices, and implementation of suitable legislation.
Early detection and treatment in babies and children can prevent problems with language development and academic progress. Depending on the cause, hearing loss can be treated surgically, medically or with the use of hearing aids or implantable devices.
The World Health Organization has developed resources designed to help health workers prevent, detect and manage disorders of the ear. In 1998, the initiative for affordable hearing aids and services in developing countries was developed on needs and technology assessment. This let to the publication of the WHO Guidelines for Hearing Aids and Services for Developing Countries. In 2009, the WHO published newborn and infant hearing screening guiding principles for action.