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January 19, 2012

Children wait for years to get help for their hearing loss

Ireland has problems with long waiting lists in audiology departments. That is why children do not get the help they need, and this can have serious consequences.

Children wait for years to get help for their hearing loss

A report published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Irish children born with hearing problems can wait up to five years to have hearing aids fitted because of serious shortages in audiology services.

According to the report, there were more than 22,000 adults and children on community-based audiology waiting lists in October 2009, with about 10,000 of them awaiting an initial assessment and a similar number awaiting a review. A figure which the HSE, however, believe to be exaggerated.

In terms of hospital-based audiology services, the report says that children can be waiting for these from between three and 36 months, while adults can be waiting anywhere between three weeks and 48 months.

Severe consequences

If hearing loss is identified or addressed too late, it can impact directly on the child's communication ability, constrain their development, lead to limitations in everyday activities and restrict personal and social participation. It may not be possible for the child to "catch up" and they risk having problems into adulthood. That is why it is important that a hearing loss is picked up on in time, and that the child receives the help they need.

No trained audiologists

One of the reasons for the long waiting lists is, according to the report, that there are no audiologists being educated in Ireland. It is difficult to attract personnel to Ireland and the staffing issues will never be properly solved until a training program for specialists is established in Ireland, the report says.

The report called for the doubling of audiology staff, which currently numbers less than 70.

On top of this, the report recommends an increase in the overall budget for modern digital hearing aids and that a national newborn hearing screening program be put in place.

Meanwhile, an additional €3.7 million has been allocated to the HSE to implement some of the report's recommendations.

Source: www.independent.ie & www.irishtimes.com

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