Hearing loss in “one in 10 at-risk children”

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One in 10 underprivileged Australian children may have hearing loss and nearly one in three a dysfunctional middle ear, according to a new research paper, prompting calls for targeted screening.

Researchers at Macquarie University in Sydney analyzed the screening results of 2,489 NSW children from low socioeconomic backgrounds between 2013 and 2016.

More than 40% of the children – who had a median age of 11 – failed their hearing tests, according to the article published Thursday in the peer-reviewed journal Public Health Research and Practice.

The authors found that 11.5% of children had hearing loss and 28.9% had middle ear dysfunction.

Younger children were more likely to have middle ear dysfunction, while a higher proportion of Indigenous and immigrant children were identified as having hearing or hearing problems. hear.

The authors – Catherine McMahon, Jade McLennan, Neil Orr, Kai Nash and Phillip Nakad – claim that mild hearing loss can lead to poor outcomes for young children.

“Undetected hearing loss during the critical period of neurocognitive development can have significant consequences for speech and language development, academic achievement, and neurocognitive and socio-emotional growth,” the study reads. .

The disruption of face-to-face learning linked to the coronavirus pandemic could “widen the gap in the future,” they add.

Australia currently has no national school screening program for middle ear disease and hearing loss, their cost-effectiveness being described as “contested and poorly understood”.

Nonetheless, advocacy group Soundfair says research, which it co-sponsored, shows the country’s hearing care is not fit for purpose.

With the study authors from Macquarie University, he contributed an accompanying editorial calling for a national action plan to tackle inequality.

“By 2050, it is predicted that one in four Australians will live with hearing loss,” Soundfair chief executive Dr Caitlin Barr said.

“For far too long, hearing loss has been stigmatized rather than widely recognized as a society-wide experience requiring action.”


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