Several studies indicate that different degrees of hearing loss are common among African children. In many African countries south of Sahara, the prevalence rates are higher than in most developed countries. Many children are at risk of getting diseases causing hearing loss.
The different causes of hearing loss have not been the subject of systematic studies, but, generally speaking, meningitis, measles, otitis media and different febrile illnesses such as bacterial infections are the major causes of childhood hearing loss. Those diseases often go untreated in the region.
In Nigeria a study found that 25 per cent of the cases of deafness can be linked to meningitis. Researchers have found a similar trend in Angola where 21 per cent of the cases can be attributed to meningitis, 10 per cent to measles and 10 per cent to febrile illness.
Furthermore, a group of researchers who conducted a study in Sierra Leone found that otitis media commonly causes mild to moderate hearing loss.
Hearing loss caused by genetic disorders may also play a roll but very little information exists about these factors due to a lack of trained personnel.
Source: "Childhood hearing loss in sub-Saharan Africa: a review and recommendations", International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology, 1997, vol. 40 &"WHO tackles hearing disabilities in developing world", The LANCET, 2001, vol. 358: 219.
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