REXBURG, Idaho — More than 33 million people are living in Peru. Of those 33 million, there are roughly 532,209 people affected by hearing loss in Peru, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Information. Those with hearing loss may have a harder time succeeding in school and may find it difficult to maintain employment status.
Children and Hearing Loss
Countries with limited resources are twice as likely to lose their hearing in infanthood than high-resource countries. Similarly, school children living with low resources are four to seven times more likely to have hearing loss than those in a high-resource country. There are many reasons why hearing loss in Peru is more common than in a high-resource country. The first reason is a lack of screening in schools and for newborns. Additionally, a scarcity of otolaryngologists, commonly referred to as ENT specialists, poses another challenge. The high cost of specialized equipment also emerges as a significant barrier to addressing and preventing hearing loss in the country.
In Peru, hearing loss manifests in approximately 6.9% of children. Within this percentage, around 69.57% of affected children exhibit conductive hearing loss, characterized by difficulties hearing soft sounds and experiencing muffled loud sounds. Another 17.39% of children suffer from sensorineural hearing loss, indicating issues or damage to the nerve pathways in the inner ear. The remaining 13.04% present with mixed hearing loss, involving damage to both the outer or middle ear and the associated nerve pathways.
Effects of Hearing Loss
Children suffering from hearing loss that go untreated or undiagnosed have difficulty with “language, social and cognitive development.” Not only do these difficulties cause problems in school and everyday life, but they may also lead to behavioral issues and self-isolation. A study conducted in Lima, Peru, revealed that 30% of children with hearing loss needed additional assistance in their school studies and 8.7% experienced academic failure. In contrast, among hearing children, only 19% required extra help and the failure rate was 2.5%.
In 2016, the World Wide Hearing Foundation and the Hear the World Foundation launched a campaign to help with hearing loss in Peru. The goal was to detect early signs of hearing loss in children and help reduce hearing loss. In 2018, the Foundation provided “hearing health care to 30,000 children” in Peru.
The foundation made a difference by providing hearing screening training to speech therapist students and teachers. This allowed them to use technology for screenings and identify signs of hearing loss. Additionally, the foundation extended its efforts to Ayacucho, a small town situated nine hours away from the central city, Lima, to conduct screenings in that community. As a culmination of their initiatives, the foundation provided hearing aids and follow-up care to children diagnosed with hearing loss.
In 2018, Hear the World Foundation, World Wide Hearing Foundation International and Vibes, a company specializing in earplug manufacturing, partnered “to address this situation and bring access to hearing healthcare to 30,000 children in need in Peru.” Together, they “began a hearing screening campaign in schools in Lima to identify school children with hearing loss and provide them with services to improve their ability to hear, listen and speak.”
In addition, there are organizations focused on assisting children with disabilities more broadly. The U.N., in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), is “helping girls and boys with disabilities” in Peru through the Education Cannot Wait (ECW) Act. This initiative aims to help many young boys and girls feel included in the classroom and help them find growth opportunities.
Although many children have hearing loss in Peru, several foundations and organizations are taking action to help reduce the effects of hearing loss on impoverished children.
– Abby Trussell