Since opening in 2003, the Audiology and Balance Unit of Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) has fitted over 5,000 patients with hearing aids and helped 245 patients hear again, some for the first time, by providing them with cochlear implants.
The Audiology and Balance Unit provides a comprehensive diagnosis and treatment programme, caring for adults and children experiencing hearing loss. The early diagnosis of hearing loss in children is especially important, as hearing impairments can lead to delayed development of listening and spoken language skills.
Qatar is recognised as a leader in the early detection of hearing weakness and loss due to the establishment of the National Centre for Early Detection of Hearing Loss. Established in 2003, the programme provides hearing screenings to all babies born in Qatar prior to their discharge from the hospital. Under the programme, all babies are tested again when they have their first vaccination, normally between two to three months of age and children are also screened prior to starting school.
One of the most diagnosed conditions treated at the Audiology and Balance Unit is sensorineural hearing loss. Speaking about the condition, Dr Khalid Abdul Hadi, a Senior Consultant for Hearing and Balance Disorders, and the Director of the Audiology and Balance Unit, highlighted the example of a long-term patient, a young Qatari girl, who was born deaf but was able to hear after being treated for sensorineural hearing loss.
Rouda was born at the Women’s Hospital in 2008 and a day after her birth received a routine hearing test offered to all newborn babies as part of the National Programme for Early Detection of Hearing Loss. Hearing loss was suspected and her parents were advised to return two weeks later for another test.
After Rouda’s diagnosis, she was fitted with hearing aids in both ears and began auditory verbal therapy three times a week; the highly specialist therapy aims to enable the child to learn to talk through listening.
Rouda continued to struggle to communicate so her care team began discussing the option of cochlear implants with her family. Prior to fitting Rouda with the implants, the team counseled her parents about the surgery and the post-surgery care needed.
Cochlear implants are devices that can provide sound for people who receive little or no benefit from hearing aids. In some cases, a cochlear implant may be more successful than hearing aids because the devise converts sound into electrical signals that bypass the damaged cochlea and directly stimulate the hearing nerve.
Today Rouda is a happy and healthy nine-year-old who her doctors boast is one of the best students in her class. She speaks English and Arabic fluently.
World Hearing Day
To mark World Hearing Day, held each year on 3 March, HMC prepared a number of events for staff and members of the public to raise awareness on the rising global prevalence of hearing loss and the importance of preventive actions to protect one’s hearing. Hearing loss, according to Dr Abdul Hadi, affects over 466 million people worldwide.