According to researchers at the National Institute of Health in USA, children under 16 who have been exposed to HIV during the pregnancy have an increased risk of experiencing reduced hearing. More than 200 children and young people between the ages of seven and 16 participated in an American study of the connection between exposure to HIV and hearing loss. The results showed that hearing loss affects 9-15% of HIV-infected children and 5-8% of the children, who did not have HIV at birth but whose mother had HIV during their pregnancy.
Compared to the American average of hearing loss in children aged 7-16, the HIV-infected children had a 200-300% greater risk of having reduced hearing. For the children whose mothers had HIV during pregnancy, but whose children were not born HIV-positive, the risk of hearing loss was 20% greater than the average.
Not due to the infection
Earlier studies show, that children with HIV are often more susceptible to middle ear infections than other children. Repeated cases of middle ear infection can lead to hearing loss. But the American study, led by Peter Torre III of San Diego State University, USA, shows that in 60 percent of the cases in the study, hearing loss was the result of problems with the transmission of sound from the nerves of the ear to the brain.
That means that hearing loss is not caused by an infection in the middle ear.
â€Although ear infections are more common among children with HIV, these do not appear to be the reason their hearing is more likely to be compromised,â€ says Peter Torre.
The researchers also found that the children who had developed AIDS at any stage were more susceptible to having a hearing loss. Even if the infection was under control.
The results were published online in The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal and point to the fact that adults who are in contact with HIV-infected children should be extra vigilant.
Even a mild hearing loss in children can delay their acquisition of language skills.
“If parents and teachers know the child has a hearing problem, then they may take measures to compensate in various communication settings, such as placement in the front of the classroom or avoiding noisy settings,” says Howard Hoffman from The National Institute of Deafness and Other Communications Skills, which has supported the study.