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Hearing impairment usually does not command much attention in third world countries even though various studies and estimates indicate that two thirds of the world's population of hearing impaired people live in the developing nations. A survey conducted among 5-15 year-olds in Sierra Leone indicates how widespread the problem is in some areas. The survey found that nine percent of the children of Sierra Leone suffer from various forms of hearing loss.

The survey was conducted among 2015 children of an average age of 8.6 years. The children live in urban as well as rural areas. Among the surveyed children with hearing loss, 19 percent suffered moderate hearing loss in both ears and four percent had severe hearing deficits in one or both ears. The researchers concluded that approximately four children of every 1000 in Sierra Leone are deaf, and many of them have developed no speech.

Hearing problems are a severe handicap, particularly in developing countries where the ability to take part in normal conversations is vital for economic and social survival. However, many are illiterate as well hearing impaired, and thus unable to communicate by writing and reading.

Source: "Hearing Loss Prevalence and Risk Factors Among Sierra Leonean Children" in Achives of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery, vol. 121 August 1995

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