Hearing loss highlighted

2017-09-27 06:03

One of the most common misunderstood and neglected birth defects in developing countries is hearing loss.

According to Dr Magteld Smith, lecturer in the Department of Otorhino-laryngology at the University of the Free State (UFS), this can most severely impair andhave a dramatic impact on the quality of life of the person with hearing loss.

“Hearing loss refers to all the diffe-rent types and levels of hearing loss – from slight to profound,” Smith said.

Derived from a number of retrospective studies in South Africa, Smith said approximately 17 people a day are born with hearing loss.

“More than 95% of those children have hearing parents. This estimate excludes children and adults who lose their hearing after birth,” she said.

According to Smith, hearing loss strikes at the very essence of being human, because it hinders communication with others.

To enable people to communicate with those who suffer from hearing loss, the university’s Department of South African Sign Language teaches students Sign Language. This year, the department enrolled 230 students. A number of these students are of the Faculty of Education. These students could from 2017 for the first time choose sign language as a subject.

“Studies have shown that important language skills are learned before the age of three, because hearing and learning language are closely tied together. Brain development of the auditory pathways and language cortex occurs in young children as they respond to auditory and visual language. In families that are part of the deaf culture, parents automatically sign from day one. In this way, the baby is learning visual language and the appropriate brain development occurs.

“However, if a child has an undiagnosed hearing loss and the parents are unaware, the child will not receive the needed language stimulation — and the hoped-for development won’t take place,” Smith said.

“Children with hearing loss have their own talents, different levels of intelligence, socio-economic circumstances and different abilities – just like hearing children.”

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