Just like poor vision or any other condition that requires medication, hearing loss also requires special attention to avoid larger complications. Dr Rajab Mugabo, senior ENT consultant and neck surgeon at King Faisal Hospital in Kigali, explains that people with hearing loss tend to avoid treatment due to stigma or fear of being seen as people with hearing loss. hearing problems.
Dr Mugabo says there is a need for everyone, regardless of their age, to be checked for hearing problems if there is any cause for concern.
Playing loud music with headphones can cause hearing loss. / Report.
The results of available research indicate that there are approximately 360 million people with disabling hearing loss worldwide, the majority of them in developing countries. Crippling hearing loss occurs when hearing drops to such a level that an individual cannot follow normal conversations or attend classes in the classroom.
Mugabo also notes that 50-60% of hearing impairments are preventable, especially in children, and this is an area where emphasis and resources must be focused.
How does hearing loss occur?
According to Protais Munyarugamba, ENT surgeon at the Kigali Citizens Polyclinic in Kigali, hearing loss can affect a person at any age, including the fetus in the mother’s womb. The causes of hearing loss in newborns may be due to genetic disorders or maternal infections. Maternal infections that can cause hearing loss in the fetus include rubella and syphilis.
He notes that during childbirth, delayed or obstructed labor leads to hearing loss, explaining that this is due to the reduced oxygen supply to the asphyxiated baby (where oxygen is reduced) resulting in brain damage. Depending on the part of the brain damaged, this can lead to hearing loss.
Munyarugamba notes that babies born with low birth weight and premature delivery could also lead to hearing loss. He explains that when babies are born prematurely, they are placed in incubators, which puts them at risk of developing hearing loss due to the noisy environment to which they are exposed.
Childhood illnesses such as severe jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin in babies), measles, severe malaria and meningitis can affect the whole body and can also end up damaging the nerve responsible for hearing, adds. Munyarugamba.
Similarly, he points out that ear disease can lead to hearing loss.
Munyarugamba says frequent colds are common in children due to weak immune systems, explaining that they cause fluid to build up in their ears and lead to hearing loss if not treated well.
However, Dr Mugabo says wax in the ears is another common cause of hearing loss in children and adults.
âFor example, the ear is supposed to clean itself, but for some people that doesn’t happen, so they become vulnerable to hearing loss because they always build up earwax in their ears. People who use cotton swabs or other objects to clean their ears tend to push the wax further into the ears, which can lead to wax clogging in the ear canal and hearing loss â , he said.
Dr Mugabo says that according to a recent study they conducted among primary school children in Rwanda, 19% of children had wax in their ears.
âThis is a big deal because most of them end up developing hearing loss if they don’t get treatment to remove the wax,â he says.
Dr Gratien Tuyishime, ear, nose and throat surgeon at Kigal University Hospital, explains that hearing loss can also result from injuries such as head trauma and certain medications such as quinine and medications. used to treat high blood pressure, tuberculosis and HIV can cause hearing problems.
âThis is because these drugs can damage the nerve responsible for hearing and these patients should be closely monitored during treatment so that they do not develop hearing problems or other complications,â he says.
Aging is another cause as well, and according to Tuyishime, people over the age of 60 are likely to develop a hearing problem due to the aging of their sense organs.
âThe greatest danger today is related to the exposure to loud noise that we have in our society, especially among the younger generation who keep their ears plugged while listening to loud music. People working in industries and processing plants are exposed to loud noises which can damage their hearing.
“The projection is that we are likely to see a large increase in hearing impairment in the near future due to the use of headphones in the young population,” Mugabo said.
He adds that noise above 80 decibels from any source is damaging to the ears.
What can be done to avoid such problems?
According to Daniel Gahungu, general practitioner at Polyclinique Ectoile in Kigali, the most important thing to do is to adopt preventive measures.
âFirst of all, mothers and children should be vaccinated against rubella, which is known to cause hearing infections,â he says.
For mothers, Gahungu advises to always eat a balanced diet throughout their pregnancy to avoid cases of babies being born with low birth weight, which is among the causes of hearing loss in children.
âDuring pregnancy, mothers should also avoid consuming alcohol and tobacco as they interfere with the growth of the fetus in the womb. Promoting or improving maternal health is also another measure to ensure good hearing in women. babies, âhe said.
Vaccination against childhood illnesses such as measles and meningitis is also essential for preventing hearing loss in children, Gahungu says.
Munyarugamba notes that early identification and treatment of ear infection is also essential as it prevents further complications. Awareness is also important, for example, reducing occupational risks by providing people working in industries with protective equipment, so that they do not become victims of hearing loss over time. He adds that annual hearing exams are also essential.
Raising awareness among the younger generation is also important to avoid overuse of headphones.
When do you need hearing aids?
âPeople who suspect hearing loss should always seek treatment. A parent who suspects that their child might have a hearing problem should see an ENT specialist to check the hearing loss and the probable cause, âsays Mugabo.
According to him, there are those who have problems that can be treated and return to normal hearing, especially those with infections or fluid in the ears as well as holes in the eardrums.
However, there is one category where the impairment cannot be treated and those affected need hearing aids. According to Munyarugamba, hearing aids elevate the sound that comes in and amplify it so that normal sounds of a conversation can be heard at a certain level.
âPeople with very severe or profound hearing loss may not benefit from hearing aids and therefore need to learn sign language. This category can also benefit from cochlear implants but this device is still expensive and is not available in Rwanda and in most developing countries, âhe says.