The ear is a complicated organ, mainly developing before birth. The hearing of the unborn child is vulnerable to a number of factors, making hearing loss the most common birth defect. Three-four newborns in every 1,000 are born with hearing damage. In about half of these the causes are genetic predisposition.
Expectant mothers can take a variety of precautions to minimise the risk of non-genetic hearing loss in their unborn children.
- Frequent hand washing protects against infections with cytomegalovirus, a common herpes virus. When transmitted from mother to child in the first three months of pregnancy, this virus may cause hearing loss in the child.
- Stopping smoking and avoiding second hand cigarette smoke is another important precaution. Smoking may adversely affect the developing cochlea.
- Excessive noise should be avoided, as well. Noise can damage the hearing of the child before birth.
Many countries have instituted universal hearing screening of newborns in the last couple of decades. Early intervention is beneficial for the children's speech, as well as their educational, social and emotional development, according to numerous studies.
It is of great importance that parents disclose all relevant information prior to the screening.