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Between 1985 and 1990, 0.17% of Estonian children were born with 'permanent childhood hearing impairment', according to the first published study of this issue in Estonia. The results of the study were published in Audiology 2000; 39: 192-197.

The study, based on data collected from hearing clinics in the two largest cities of Estonia, included 248 children with a 'better ear hearing loss' of 40 dB and above. 'Prevalence rates' were calculated by comparing the number of children referred to the clinics with the total number of births.

The rate of newborns with hearing impairment does not deviate significantly with rates found in similar studies in other European countries. But the researchers found indications of a significantly higher frequency among the hearing impaired newborns with severe or profound hearing loss in Estonia than in other European countries. The reasons, according to the researchers, may by socioeconomic or genetic, but the relatively high proportion of severely or profoundly hearing impaired children may also be due to the failure to detect a number of cases of milder hearing loss. .

According to the study, diagnosing and treatment of hearing loss in Estonian children happens with an average delay of 20 months in comparison to the diagnosing and treatment of children in countries such as the United Kingdom.

Few, if any, comprehensive studies from Eastern European countries exist, and the Estonian study provides a first insight into a new region.

Source: Audiology 2000; 39:192-197

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