THE PHYSICIAN AND THE DEAF CHILD
Deafness is a handicap which seriously impairs a child's ability to develop his potential and usually precludes a normal relationship between him and society. Hearing impairments developed in thousands of children during the rubella epidemic of the mid-sixties. The present struggle of these youngsters to acquire language highlights the impact of deafness. Therefore, the Committee's attention is focused on this disability, and the need to cite the physician's responsibility to the deaf child becomes paramount.
One child in 1,500 is born deaf. Many more acquire deafness after birth, and 3 children in 100 have impaired hearing. The normal acquisition of language depends on the auditory system; and the relationship between normal language development and one's capability to function in society is obvious.
There is some disagreement about when a hearing impairment should be classed as deafness; and many resort to a functional description based on the need of the child to be educated in a school for the deaf. For the purposes of this statement, a child can be considered deaf if his threshold of hearing across the speech frequencies (i.e., from 500 through 2,000 cycles per second) is depressed 80 db (ANSI) in the better ear.
The importance of documenting the presence of hearing in the growing infant cannot be stressed too strongly. It is equally important to recognize the implications of the absence of normal hearing in a child. The physician who renders primary health care to the child and cares for him from the bassinet1 to adulthood should assume this task (the type, the extent, and the cause of hearing loss should be determined by otolaryngologists and audiologists).
- Copyright © 1973 by the American Academy of Pediatrics