Hearing loss in children is higher than previously thought

September 06, 2001

Prevalence of permanent childhood hearing impairment in the United Kingdom and implications for universal neonatal hearing screening: questionnaire based ascertainment study BMJ Volume 323, pp 536-9

Commentary: Universal newborn hearing screening: implications for coordinating and developing services for deaf and hearing impaired children BMJ Volume 323, pp 539-40

Editorial: Measuring the prevalence of permanent childhood hearing impairment BMJ Volume 323, pp 525-6

Far more children in the United Kingdom suffer with permanent hearing impairment by the age of 9 years than previously estimated, find researchers in this week's BMJ. This has important implications for co-ordinating services for deaf and hearing impaired children.

Postal questionnaires were used to identify over 17,000 children throughout the UK with permanent hearing impairment. The level of hearing impairment increased until the age of 9 years to a significantly higher plateau than previous studies have estimated. The team calculated that for every 10 children with a permanent hearing impairment detected, another five to nine children (50-90%) would develop a hearing impairment by the age of 9 years.

These additional children would include some with inherited impairments who either miss hearing screening as newborns or pass the screening despite having a hearing impairment, some who acquire an impairment (for example, after meningitis) and others who develop late onset or progressive impairments, explain the authors.

Unless newborn screening programmes in the UK improve, significant numbers of children will still need to be diagnosed with each passing year, warn the authors. Child audiology services must have the capacity to achieve early identification and confirmation of these additional cases, they conclude.


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