Hear Armenia: Ensuring little ears can hear

Open Ears is following a group of Sonova team members as they head to Armenia with the Hear The World Foundation. Elena Torresani leads the department of the Hear the World Foundation. She is passionate about her job, is creative and enthusiastic. Outside of work, she enjoys cooking, travelling, doing yoga and spending time with her loved ones.

Every year, about 665,000 babies around the world are born with significant hearing loss. This is a statistic that, as a foundation, empowers us to help make a difference in these children’s lives.

Since 2010, The Hear the World Foundation has been supporting the Arabkir Hospital in Yerevan to develop a newborn hearing screening program. Since then, the program has expanded to five additional provinces of Armenia. Now, all infants born at these locations receive a newborn hearing screenings 48 hours after birth!

We saw firsthand the success of this program during our visit to the Institute of Perinatology on Thursday, where we watched baby Haik have an Otoacoustic emissions (OAE) test, which can detect blockage in the outer ear canal, as well as the presence of middle ear fluid and damage to the outer hair cells in the cochlea.

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It’s especially important that we focus on children during project visits like these, because it’s been shown that the earlier hearing loss is discovered and treated, the better linguistic and educational outcomes the children will have.

Hearing loss in children can be attributed to a number of causes. According to the World Health Organization, these can include:

  • maternal rubella, syphilis or other infections during pregnancy
  • low birth weight
  • birth asphyxia (a lack of oxygen at the time of birth)
  • inappropriate use of particular drugs during pregnancy, such as aminoglycosides, cytotoxic drugs, antimalarial drugs and diuretics
  • severe jaundice in the neonatal period, which can damage the hearing nerve in a newborn infant

Children are usually born able to hear, so by birth they already have several months of experience of hearing in the womb, and their ability to hear and speak continues to develop after birth. By implementing comprehensive hearing screenings for newborns, we are working to provide the earliest possible diagnosis of hearing loss in children.

Follow our journey in Armenia here on Open Ears and on social media:

Instagram: HTW_Foundation

Facebook: Facebook.com/CanYouHearTheWorld

Twitter: @hear_the_world

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