Early diagnosis of hearing loss critical - JAD

Early diagnosis of hearing loss critical - JAD

BY KIMBERLEY HIBBERT Observer staff reporter hibbertk@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, April 05, 2015

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THE Jamaica Association for the Deaf (JAD) says early diagnosis of hearing loss is paramount to children receiving proper therapy.

June Coward-Fearon, coordinator of JAD Hearing Services Clinic on Caledonia Lane in St Andrew, told the Jamaica Observer that diagnosis can be made in a matter of hours after a child is born.

"It is now possible to screen a baby's hearing even hours after birth through techniques which allow health care professionals to determine how well a baby hears, and these techniques are easy to administer, relatively inexpensive, accurate and cause no harm or discomfort to the infant," Coward- Fearon said.

"The earlier the hearing loss is identified the better for the child, because by the time hearing babies speak their first words, they have been listening to language for 10 to 15 months, meanwhile, children who have a hearing loss do not have the input of speech and language until the loss is diagnosed, the child fitted with hearing aids and a programme of communication therapies begin," she said.

Moreover, Coward-Fearon explained that each child needs a language, whether spoken or signed, and made an appeal for parents to utilise the services offered by the clinic if they suspect their children might be deaf or hard of hearing.

"These are gifts that we celebrate and we are here to assist. The test is affordable and if a problem is detected, we custom build the hearing aid. This is 2015 where all these challenges are met with a solution," she said.

Meanwhile, she explained that a diagnostic hearing test gives information on the amount of hearing a person has and if the problem is temporary, semi-permanent or permanent. She added that the tests are done based on a person's developmental age, and the particular section of the auditory pathway which is being looked at.

According to Fearon, the clinic also offers home visits, screenings at workplaces, schools, audiological counselling, hearing aid evaluation, hearing aid services and repairs, hearing amplification, protection and accessories, meaning hearing aids of different styles and colours.

Additionally, the organisation is looking to further implement hearing conservation programmes in workplaces, especially those that utilise loud equipment.

Noise is a problem, and excessive noise can be a permanent damage to hearing. The programme is aimed at sensitising employers about the potential dangers of such equipment and encouraging employees to wear noise-reduction ear plugs," Coward-Fearon said.

An appeal is also being made to the public to exercise better ear care.

"For young people and adults, if someone is sitting beside you and can hear what you are listening to via your earphones and participate in it, it is too loud. Have fun, but do everything with moderation," she said.

"Don't clean your ears with q-tips or anything smaller than your elbow, what you're doing is pushing through wax, foreign object or anything in the ear that can damage the ear drum."

Coward-Fearon also encouraged Jamaicans to test their hearing at most every two years and to understand that the JAD is here to take care of hearing and ear care throughout the different stages of people's lives.

"We don't want to have a community of poor people, but one of economically empowered people who are improving the quality of life. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you are still alive," she said.

JAD will be celebrating its 77th anniversary and Deaf Awareness Week from May 4 to 10 under the theme 'Connect and Communicate'.

The last Wednesday in April will be celebrated as International Noise Awareness Day and will also be an open day for the clinic, where the public can learn more about the services they offer and utilise them.

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