Vaccinations Can Avoid Hearing Loss

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By: Dr. Phoebe Clouser

National Immunization Awareness Month takes place in August every year to highlight the importance of vaccinations for people of all ages. Communities across the country promote awareness about the types of vaccinations available and their role in preventing serious diseases.

Without vaccines, children are at increased risk for health issues and they can spread disease to anyone they come into contact with. This includes spreading diseases to newborns who are too young to be fully vaccinated, people with compromised immune systems, or the elderly population. Many states require vaccinations for children who are starting school.  Colleges and universities may also have their own requirements, especially for students living in dorms.

One of the most important things a parent can do to protect their child’s health is getting their child vaccinated.  Whether parents have a baby going to a daycare facility, a toddler starting preschool, a student going back to school or a college student moving into a dorm, parents should check their child’s vaccination records and make sure they are up to date.  These types of environments are prone to disease outbreaks and are often unavoidable. Children in these settings can easily spread illnesses to one another due to close quarters, poor hand washing, not covering their coughs and sneezes and sharing food/drink.

Over 30% of childhood hearing loss is caused by diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella meningitis and ear infections. Potentially, over 19% of those cases could be avoided through immunization against rubella and meningitis alone.  Vaccine-preventable diseases include: Diphtheria, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Human Papillomavirus, Influenza, Measles, Meningococcal, Mumps, Pertussis, Pneumococcal, Polio, Rubella, Tetanus and Varicella.  Certain conditions such as Rubella, mumps, measles, meningitis, and shingles can cause hearing loss. Protecting yourself from these conditions is also protecting your hearing.

A back to school hearing test is important for children.  Hearing problems can occur at any time, can often be very gradual and can start at any age. Initially the loss may be so subtle that a parent may not even notice something is wrong. They attribute misbehavior to their child just was not listening to them.  Even when a mild hearing loss goes undetected, the child could suffer.  Their grades could fall, their speech could be delayed, and their social interactions may be impacted due to lower self-esteem.  Having your child’s hearing tested before going back to school is beneficial and can help ensure they have the tools they need to reach their full learning potential in the future.

Be involved and spread the word on the importance of getting vaccinated.

References:  World Health Organization, 2016, ASHA Leader, 2018

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