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Jan 27, 2011

Healthy Living listens for the cause of hearing loss in infants

The five senses are some of the most important yet least regarded gifts of the human body. Sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste guide us every day in what we eat, where we go and even warn us of when we are in the presence of danger. The thought of losing just one sense can cause complications that you might not have considered. But if you did lose one sense, what would you do? This edition of Healthy Living takes a journey into the auditory canal and listens for signs of hearing loss in infants.

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

Mild Hearing loss for us adults may seem to be no big deal but hearing loss in children whether mild moderate or profound can have dramatic effects. Pediatrician, Doctor Cecilio Eck explains how a baby’s hearing impacts his/her development.

Dr. Cecilio Eck, President of Friends of Pediatrics

“From very early on the normal newborn baby and a couple months on their brain is like a sponge and the skills that develop, language motor skills all of those occur very early in development. With speech and language and hearing we know that if a child cannot hear. If a couple months pass, it’s a narrow window and he cannot hear the enunciation and pronunciation of words and consonants. Then the window is missed then we end up with a child that is profoundly deaf but not only that would have poor speech because they couldn’t hear at an early age.”

Cecilio Eck

In most countries, it is a common practice for newborn babies to have their hearing screened before they are even released from the hospital.

Dr. Cecilio Eck

“In Belize when I assessed further we had no way to assess properly hearing. All over the world, what is normally done prior to discharge from the hospital is that a baby is screening test that is done, very very simple, we get some equipment and we check that the hearing of the  babies and if the babies pass the get a little certificate that says they’ve been screened.”

ann marie fuller

For parents like Ann Marie Fuller, access to early screening would have answered questions she would later have regarding her daughter Gabriella’s development.

Ann Marie Fuller, Mother of 2 yr old Gabriella

“Well usually kids start saying words by age one and by oneand a half they are saying like two word commands. Tell you what they want and by her age, two and a half she should be saying short sentences. So we realized that you know her speech was really delayed so we had to get her checked. So we just started asking questions to her pediatrician trying to find out what caused the problem.”

Speech delay can be a result of various conditions. However, it is necessary to rule out hearing loss as early as possible.

Ann Marie Fuller

“We had always known if you have speech delays in the beginning it might be some disorder like autism but you should always rule out the hearing first because it might be a combination and it could help if you find out what the problem is.  Cause with the hearing situation there are ways you can correct it. So it was important for u to real it out but unfortunately there was no equipment in Belize for us to do it when she was littler.”

Before this year, Anna would have had to take Gabby out of the country to have a basic hearing test conducted. But this week, a pilot program for newborn hearing assessment was launched. The initiative is a result of the collaborative effort of Audiologist, Dr John Martinetti through his foundation & Friends of Pediatrics in Belize through Dr Eck. Dr John who makes regular diving trips to Belize approached Dr Eck regarding the initiative. Through fundraising and perseverance, the program has come to fruition. The equipment for the testing has been donated by Dr John and the trained nurses will be financed by FOP.

Dr. Cecilio Eck

“Finally about four to five months ago we decided that regardless of what happened we’d do this program. Friends of pediatrics came on to finance the nurses, The K.H.M.H. has agreed for us to do it within their setting. Dr. Zaiden is our resident ears/ nose and throat specialist so she has contributed greatly to this.”

Dr. John Martinetti, Audiologist, Founder of Jon and Helen Martinetti Hearing Foundation

“It’s called otoacoustics emissions. We do this in the United States. All the babies are screened and it’s a piece of equipment that sends a signal through the air canal vibrates the ear drum, vibrates the bones in the ear and goes to the nerves of the ear called the cochlea from the cochlea that then sends a next sound right back to trough the bones through the eardrums to a pick up microphone and that gets mixed into a computer. Those are called otoacoustic emissions. These emissions come back and they average into the computer and they can tell us whether a child can hear or doesn’t hear.”

Dr. Cecilio Eck

“What we do is the nurses come in before the babies are discharge we screen. If the babies fail, a month later they come back to the clinic. Where Dr. Zaiden sees them and rescreens. If they fail that second test then Dr. John Martinetti will come in four times year in Belize to test them at a different level. If they fail that then they’ll be fitted for hearing aids by him.”

Dr. John Martinetti

“A child with mild hearing loss can be delayed by a year or 2 years even a child with normal hearing in one year and hearing loss in the other we have found that we need to fit them with hearing aids because in the states they fall at least one year behind.”

Maria Chable is hoping to get an early prognosis through the screening program regarding her one month old baby Edgar.

Maria Chable

Maria Chable, Mother of Edgar

“I just started to caress my baby and check his hair and everything and I noticed that he didn’t have the hole so I just got …I felt sad. The first thing that came to mind was that my baby couldn’t hear because of the little hole.”

While Edgar will require surgery to repair his outer ear, Maria has one less test to worry about since she can have the hearing screening done in Belize. As for Gabby and her mom Anna, eliminating hearing loss as the cause of Gabby’s speech delay can help them refocus their energies.

Ann Marie Fuller, Mother of 2 yr old Gabriella

“It looks like it might be clear and that enables us to rule that out completely and focus on her real problem. We’re leading more towards treating her for the speech delay.”

Dr. Cecilio Eck

“The simplified way of looking at it is that if we spent all this time effort and money and he help just one kids hear early and develop speech earlier and decrease communications mishaps they might have. It’ll be a success.”

Gabby’s parents have contacted a volunteer speech pathologist in-country to help Gabby with her speech delay. They are pursuing further testing. Edgar was tested and is capable of hearing and his mom is working with friends of pediatrics to help him get the corrective surgery her needs. Meanwhile Dr John will continue his self-sponsored trips to Belize for the one year program and K.H.M.H. has indicated that they plan to take over the program fully after the initial year.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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