Two Sudanese researchers examined 264 children, aged between 14 months and 14 years, all of them suffering from severe hearing loss. The findings were upsetting in that most of the cases of hearing loss could have been avoided through simple preventive measures.
Genetics and quinine most common causes of hearing loss
The most common cause of hearing loss was found to be hereditary factors. As many as 75 percent of the children with hearing loss were born to parents who were close blood-relatives, making hereditary factors the most likely cause of the children's hearing loss.
Quinine, a commonly prescribed malaria medication, is the second most common cause of hearing loss in the children. One in three of the examined children was exposed to quinine during their mother's pregnancy. Another one in four was treated with quinine after they were born. Permanent damage in the inner ear is a known, if not widespread, side effect associated with quinine.
Many of the children of closely related parents were also exposed to or treated with quinine, making the exact cause of their hearing loss - heredity or the malaria medication - hard to pinpoint.
Recommended course of action: Vaccinations and hearing screening
The researchers identified another group, 18 percent of the children, whose hearing loss was related to meningitis or other infections, which are preventable through vaccination.
Vaccinations against these types of infections would prevent needless cases of hearing loss in Sudanese children, concluded the researchers. They suggest that other cases of hearing loss can be prevented through general awareness of the risks associated with marriages among close blood relatives.
Finally, the researchers emphasize the need for early hearing screening of the children of such marriages as well as children treated with or exposed to quinine, so they can receive proper treatment.
Source: ”?Saudi Journal of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology, Head and Neck Surgery', vol. 4, no. 1, 2007