Expert urges early testing for hearing problems

2017-11-01 06:00
Marianne Kühn, a speech therapist, with Nthabiseng Litabe, whose child underwent screening to detect possible hearing difficulty.Photo: Supplied

Marianne Kühn, a speech therapist, with Nthabiseng Litabe, whose child underwent screening to detect possible hearing difficulty.Photo: Supplied

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Mothers of new-born infants are encouraged to have their children undergo hearing screening to detect hearing difficulty and refer them for speech therapy at an early stage.

This appeal was made by Julia Jensen, speech therapist and audiologist and head of the speech department at the Pelonomi Hospital.

She made this appeal during the Carel du Toit Centre’s launch of a new chapter in its history regarding hearing loss in Bloemfontein on 10 October.

The launch profiled the strides the Carel du Toit Centre is making as a beacon of hope for children with hearing difficulties in the Free State.

The centre is located at the National Hospital in Bloemfontein and is partly funded by two provincial departments, Education and Social Development.

It began rendering services in June 2000, teaching deaf babies and toddlers to listen and to speak.

The centre has a unique Parent Guidance Programme, in which parents receive guidance on how to stimulate their child’s listening and language skills at home.

All deaf children with hearing aids or cochlear implants, from babies up to Gr. 3, are accepted.

Services include early detection of and intervention for infants with hearing loss.

Jensen said the importance for hearing screening of children and referral to speech therapy at an early stage would help with detection of hearing loss.

“The goal is to maximise linguistic competence and literacy development for these children. The younger the child is, the greater the chances of success in impro-ving speech.

“When hearing loss is identified before the age of six months and we help them to learn to identify sounds around them and to pick up language, the progress is phenomenal.”

Jensen said late identification remains a huge challenge, further encouraging parents to not delay seeking help.

“Some of this will improve with the right education as nurses and clinic staff often tell mothers that their children are just late developers and will start talking one day.

“But when these mothers and caregivers are still getting this advice when the child is five years old, it is becoming a problem.”

Jensen said the speech therapist and audiologist at the Pelonomi Hospital received referrals of children from all over the Free State.

“The referrals usually go along the lines of ‘speech delay’, ‘naughty and doesn’t listen’, ‘not doing well at school’, ‘late talker’, etc.

“A lot of these children have hearing loss and it is identified so late that there is little time for them to learn language and have a fighting chance in a normal school, let alone a ‘special school’. ”

According to Jensen, the Carel du Toit Centre staff was doing exceptional work helping children with hearing problems.

“But their hard work is sometimes fruitless when children arrive at a late stage of their early language developmental years.

“We really want to see early identification of hearing loss.

“This will make all the hard work worthwhile.

“So while part of it is providing education on hearing loss and milestones to medical personnel, we also need proper hearing screening programmes to improve,” she said.

Jensen said in the Free State, the screening programmes remain a huge problem due to the lack of staff, finances and resources.

“The Pelonomi and Universitas Hospitals are the only ones with some sort of screening programme,” she said.


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