November 10 to 16 of every year is declared as Deaf Awareness Week (DAW) thru Proclamation No. 829 last November 8, 1991 by the late President Corazon Aquino to focus awareness on deafness, its prevention and rehabilitation. This year's theme is “Ano Daw Nga?"
Speaking of deaf awareness, there is this one interesting story that you need to "hear."
My mother side of the family is from Libmanan, Camarines Sur in Bicol region. Our little town is known as the town of the "bungog" (deaf). According to legend, an affluent family with five children who have hearing disorder were the first ones who were able to study in the city. They are said to be saying "ha?" whenever people talk to them. Thus, the first impression they made were etched in history up until today. Everybody in Libmanan got labeled as "bungog."
Libmaneños have a habit of re-confirming words. No wonder, the label was transferred from generation to generation. But not everyone in Libmanan are hearing impaired.
But what really is Hearing Impairment? Is it Birth-acquired ? Or is it acquired during old age? As an adult are you still at risk of losing your hearing? One or two of these questions come rushing on your mind, right?
In the Philippines, twenty-eight percent (28%) of the population is suffering from hearing loss. That is almost a third of the population! I bet that like me you were also shocked by the large percentage of Filipinos suffering from hearing impairment. This chunk of our population is just part of the 287 million individuals, reported by the World Health Organization, who have hearing problems.
"We want to pick up hearing loss at an early stage so that we can rehabilitate as early as possible," according to Dr. Gretchen Navarro Locsin, a pediatric Ear, Nose and Throat specialist at St. Luke's Medical Center, as she spoke at the launch of Deaf Awareness Week, which is sponsored by the Metro Manila Federation of Agencies for the Deaf in cooperation with Glaxo Smith Kline and other institutions. By age one, six out of ten infants would have had more than one episode of an ear infection. By age three, 4 out of 5 children would have experienced at least one ear infection. By age seven, at least one of three children would have had at least six ear defects. These children would add to the number of people suffering from hearing disabilities.
Acquired Hearing loss can be attributed to many causes:
Increase in age
sickness like rubella
prolonged bouts of high fever
hole in the eardrum
buildup of wax in the ear canal
foreign object stuck in the ear canal
trauma from explosions
gunfire, and the like
use of certain medicines
and working around loud noises daily ( such as in construction site)
In order to avoid the loss of hearing, one should be observant of cleanliness and protection against colds, wearing hearing protection such as silicone plugs; avoiding noisy places and activities, and avoid medications that can damage hearing.
Although it is an alarming phenomenon hearing loss is potentially preventable. Deafness or hearing impairment can be present at birth or develop later in life. Some of the common causes of hearing loss are accumulated earwax, intake of certain medications,excessive noise exposure, old age and ear infection or in some rare occurrence Otitis Media.
Acute Otitis Media (Latin) is inflammation of the middle ear, or a middle ear infection. It occurs in the area between the tympanic membrane and the inner ear, including a duct known as the eustachian tube. It is one of the two categories of ear inflammation that can underlie what is commonly called an earache, the other being otitis externa. Diseases other than ear infections can also cause ear pain, including cancers of any structure that shares nerve supply with the ear and shingles which can lead to herpes zoster oticus. Though painful, Otitis media is not threatening and usually heals on its own within 2–6 weeks.
Immediate and appropriate management of ear problems or diseases is also important to prevent hearing loss. "The mother would tell us there is no problem, but that does not mean the patient is alright, that just means that maybe the mom does not see anything. That does not mean that the wound would heal itself. The child or the adult would still go into complication," says Locsin.
What she advises is to have a check-up.
Another way to prevent hearing loss is by avoiding loud noises.
"How would you know if the volume on your MP3 or IPod is too loud?" asked Locsin.
"If the person beside you could already hear it, that is too loud," she says. "You are the only one who is supposed to hear the music especially if you are using insert earphones. If you are exposed to long and abnormally loud sounds, in a long period of time, it causes hearing loss."
For some, silence might be golden, but for others it is a burden as they live in a world without sound.
Today with the help of technology and medical research, protection against Acute Otitis Media (AOM) can be achieved through vaccination. GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has developed a vaccine against Acute Otitis Media (AOM.)
"A large number of deafness is preventable. Glaxo Smith Kline is interested in educating people to avail vaccinations. Vaccination is a good way to prevent the disease, including those diseases which can cause deafness," says Sim. "Among those vaccines offered by GSK is the pneumococcal vaccine (for pneumonia) which can help prevent infections that could lead to hearing loss. We also have the Rubella vaccine (German Measles). Rubella can cause deafness in the unborn babies if pregnant women are sick with it. We also manufacture flu vaccines. Influenza, unknown to some, could also cause ear infections," shares Derrick Sim, vice president of Glaxo Smith Kline for Commercial Vaccines.
"Some vaccines only require one shot, while others require two or three shots. The vaccines stimulate the body to produce antibodies to fight the infection so that the body can protect itself."
As part of GSK's advocacy on deafness, GSK gave out 300 pneumococcal vaccines to Better Hearing Philippines to help in its commitment to protect Filipino children and prevent potential hearing loss.
During Deaf Awareness Week, activities such as seminars, dance competitions and ear check-up are offered at the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center and the University of Santo Tomas.
For more information on Deaf Awareness Week, please contact Better Hearing Philippines at (02) 406-1611. Studies reveal that generally one to three individuals in every 1,000 births suffer from some form of hearing impairment. I can't imagine the sad truth about hearing impairment such as the following:
I learned that 90 percent of deaf children are born into families where both parents have hearing impairment
Men are more likely to experience hearing loss than women
There is a strong relationship between age and hearing loss.
In celebrating Deaf Awareness Week this year, let us pay tribute to countless individuals who, despite their hearing and other impairments, endeavor to have access to education to improve their lot. Let us support every effort to bring them into the mainstream, where they too have a rightful place, and help them to gain access to opportunities to become productive members of their community and country. Private special schools with programs for the deaf, and Special Education (SpEd) Centers are also urged to undertake activities in support of the celebration. Kindly share this post, it might help others. Thanks.