Hesperian Health Guides

Chapter 15: Why children lose their hearing and what we can do

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HealthWiki > Helping Children Who Are Deaf > Chapter 15: Why children lose their hearing and what we can do

There are millions of children all over the world who are deaf or have hearing problems. Most of them are poor. Out of every 3 children with hearing problems, 2 live in poor countries. Their deafness is often caused by infection and poor nutrition. For most of these children, deafness could have been prevented by taking care of basic needs — like good food, clean drinking water, a safe, clean place to live, and access to health care.

This chapter can help you learn about the causes and medical treatments for some hearing problems. To prevent deafness, communities must work together to solve the social causes that medicine cannot fix.

A boy sitting with a man, woman, and 3 other children.
He had many untreated ear infections.
A baby with a man, woman and a small child.
Her mother did not have enough iodine in her food and water when she was pregnant.
A woman and a baby.
Her mother did not have enough food when she was pregnant.
A small child with a man, woman and an older child.
He had measles.

Children's health and hearing benefit when communities have clean air (free of smoke and dust) and good sanitation, and are free of violence. Good health care, including health education, immunizations, and early treatment of illness, is key to protecting children's hearing.

How the ear works

The ear is made up of 3 main parts: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. The outer ear is the part you can see. The middle and inner ear are inside the head and cannot be seen. All 3 parts of the ear are needed for a child to hear.

Image of a boy's head and ear describing the below.
The outer ear picks up a sound.
It travels through the ear canal and ear drum to the middle ear.
Then the inner ear sends the sound to the brain so he can hear it.
The brain then helps a child understand what the sound means.
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