Face to face with chronic disease: Hearing Impairment
Face to face with Hearing Impairment
Six year old Marinah Solonirina lives in Ambohimangakely village, Madagascar. She is about to visit an ear clinic with her mother and two sisters, to have her ears examined and her hearing tested.
The clinics – like the one shown in this photo – were set up and run as part of a broader survey of the prevalence of hearing impairment. Teams of health workers, with support from WHO and the Christoffel-Blindenmission (an international NGO), have set these up in remote areas.
The main purpose of the clinics is to diagnose and manage hearing problems early. Half of all hearing loss can be prevented if caught early enough.
Testing is quick and inexpensive. When problems are identified early, they are usually more straightforward to treat.
At the clinic, health workers carry out a hearing test and an ear examination on Marinah. They find a potentially serious middle ear infection in one ear.
Testing consists of checking hearing levels using headphones which play tones at different pitches and volumes as well as visual examination of the eardrum and middle ear.
The health workers prescribe a course of antibiotics and instruct Marinah's mother in personal hygiene for her ears. Through inexpensive, simple and early intervention, serious damage to Marinah's hearing was prevented.
More than one million men, women and children in Madagascar are affected by moderate to profound hearing loss. In children, most hearing loss is caused by ear infections, many of which go untreated and often lead to serious hearing problems.
With few doctors or nurses available, health workers from the clinic train teachers from the local school to help find and test children for possible hearing loss.
Teachers can also be trained to help hearing-impaired children with their speech. A special clinic in a nearby city helps with speech and language development.
In Marinah's village, Ambohimangakely, the village chief encouraged local people to come for hearing tests at the mobile clinic.
The goal of WHO and partners is to set up training for primary ear and hearing care for health workers in clinics in remote areas so that many more people in Madagascar will be spared a lifetime of hearing loss and deafness.