Deafness is now not nearly as common in children as it once was. But the figure is still fairly high, and is claimed to be around two children per 1,000 babies born.

What is the usual cause? It seems that babies should be born perfect in all respects. You’re right, but this does not always occur. The most common cause used to be rubella (German measles) sustained by the mother in the early months of pregnancy. Nearly always, after a national rubella epidemic, many babies were born either partially or totally deaf. It was all very sad and a major problem. But these days most girls are immunized against rubella when at school.

The figures have reduced in an amazing manner. But there are still a lot of women around who either escaped rubella immunization. Their parents refused to allow them to have it (how foolish can some parents be) or the level of immunity has since fallen and they became susceptible again. I think all women contemplating pregnancy should have a blood test to check their rubella immunity level. It can be readily carried out.

Sounds like a good idea to me. I hope women in this category will give this comment careful attention. It can prevent a lot of heartache later.

An observant mother can often pick up partial or complete deafness in her child as early as three months or age. Baby may not respond automatically to its mother’s voice when spoken to, or may not be aroused by noises when asleep, may not quieten down when spoken to in a normal maternal tone, as one would expect. Loud noises may not startle the baby – there may be no reaction if the door suddenly slams shut, for example.

These are some of the telltale signs in the three-to-four-months age level. Later on, between four and twelve months, the baby may be oblivious to noises or not respond to his or her name. Between the age of 12 and 24 months the child may talk at the same level of pitch. There is little if any variation, and the voice may tend to sound harsh and strident.

After the age of 24 months there is fairly obvious retardation of speech. It may sound incomprehensible and a meaningless jumble. The child obviously is not learning words, cannot talk properly, and language development does not occur. It is to be hoped that well before then remedial measures will have been taken by the parent

Action, quick and efficient is essential, before irreparable damage has taken place. Many parents fail to realize that hearing is to speech what vision is to reading. Without one, the other cannot possibly develop normally.

The ears are checked and a complete hearing test carried out. If hearing aids are needed, these are supplied, fitted and serviced. It’s an excellent service. Virtually any child with a hearing problem can be given some kind of help.

Any child who is suspected of being autistic, mentally retarded, suffering from a brain injury or exhibiting some kind of speech defect, should first have the hearing tested. This may be the basic cause. Of course the physician will first check to make certain the hearing deficiency is not due to an accumulation of wax or foreign bodies the child has slyly slipped in without mum knowing. This, too, may be a cause of deafness. But happily, as we have already pointed out, this is fairly curable. It’s more common in older children rather than babies and small infants.

A lot of work has been carried out in Australia as well as many worldwide centers. Cochlear implants offer hope for the future. Some children born profoundly deaf have benefited from their use. They are a high-tech, “state-of-the-art” development that holds considerable promise for the future.

Although it’s not common, cases are still regularly reported. The reasons are often unknown. There appear to be no known causes, no antenatal infections, nothing. Close scrutiny indicates there may have been some genetic defect handed down via one of the families. It’s best to become associated with one of the major government-backed hearing defect organizations.