SAVING THE NATION FROM DEAFNESS

GEORGETOWN, MOPH – BLINDNESS they say cut us off from things but deafness from people. And so 20 years ago the Audiology Department of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) embarked on a campaign to save the nation from deafness and internal social isolation.

Today the move is bearing fruit.

Dr Ruth Quaicoe making audiological checks on a newborn at the GPHC.

Deafness across the country begins for many people, sadly, not through injuries, repeated exposure to loud decibel of sounds from the ubiquitous ‘boom boom’ boxes or industrial noise but from the womb, Dr. Ruth Quaicoe, Audiological Physician at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) explains.

“If you are born with hearing impairment, it’s like you are not going to be able to develop speech if you’re not identified in time”, Quaicoe said in an interview this week.

“Hearing impairment is very serious; it depends on what time it is acquired and if the person’s lifestyle and the rehabilitation service available” the audiological specialist said.

Fortunately in Guyana rehabilitation services are available in Guyana from birth to help arrest and/or reverse congenital hearing loss. According to Quaicoe, studies have proven that if a child with hearing impairment does not receive a hearing aid by the age of 5 years they will not develop speech for the rest of their live.

“It has to do with the brain and sounds going in to develop speech and language so we try to fit everybody before the age of 5 years old”, Quaicoe explained.

Each child born at the GPHC, the country’s premier referral hospital, is subjected to undergo an automated optoacoustic emission (AOE) screening within the first 24 hours of birth. This test is again repeated within the first three months to ascertain the final diagnosis.

Caring our hearing is a lifelong mission Quaicoe counselled warning workers who must earn their living in a thundering industrial sector.

“If you work at an environment where there is loud music or machines are loud, after the first few days your ear will try to repair itself so the hearing comes back so we have a temporary threshold shift whereby you lose your hearing and then it comes back.  But after about 10 years the hearing doesn’t come back, the threshold will be lost and all you can rely on is your residual hearing”, Quaicoe explained.

For adults, hearing loss can also be attributed to their chosen lifestyle which includes non-communicable disease (NCDs), smoking and listening to loud music repeatedly, working in noisy industrial settings and of course old-age.

Losing one’s ability to hear does have devastating consequences – physically and socially -especially on the latter where one will be exposed to the disgrace and infamy of stigma.

“Hearing loss can be insidious and has been linked to social and health consequences. This has further triggered disturbing repercussions such as social isolation and inability to work and travel,” Quaicoe said.

She said while hearing aids have helped to restore hearing for the older persons, the department makes it a priory to ensure their each patient receives counselling to help them to deal with the stain of living with a hearing ailment.

TO THE RESCUE

The US-based firm Starkey Hearing Foundation has plugged millions of dollars into the audiological sector to help restore hearing among Guyanese. In the past two years, Starkey has given out some 700 hearing aids to Guyanese and will be back this week to donate another 400 to hearing-impaired persons. On March 6th the team will be at Fort Wellington Hospital, Region 5 (Mahaica/Berbice) and at the Sophia Exhibition Centre in the capital city on March 7th.

The free gift of hearing devices comes with lifetime warranty and free batteries for each recipient, and Dr Quaicoe is hoping that future visits by Starkey will target other Regions of which also desperately need their hearing restored.

DOs and DON’Ts.

Dr Quaicoe reiterated that while early screening is best practise in preventing hearing loss, there are simple dos and don’ts to follow for maximum care of the human ear.

“Don’t clean your ears with cotton swabs; avoid listening to loud music; and when necessary, wear ear protection while working at industrial plants.

“DO NOT CONSUME ALCOHOL,” Dr Quaicoe warned pregnant women.

No one wants to cut off from things or people, especially the latter. Guyanese must pay heed to Dr Mark Ross statement that “when someone in the family has a hearing loss, the entire family has a hearing problem.”

 

BY: Shabana Shaw

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