Hearing loss due to malaria therapy

Quinine still continues to be part of the standard therapy for malaria. An inexpensive and widespread medication – but with a major disadvantage: many people are unaware that in the wrong dosage quinine can adversely affect hearing ability and even cause deafness. Thus, an above-average number of inhabitants in Uganda are affected by hearing loss.

Project partner: CanHEAR Uganda
Place: Kampala & Mbale, Uganda
Year: 2010
Category: Training

Other reasons for the large number of people with hearing loss are chronic, untreated inflammations of the middle ear, which can cause injury to the eardrum, as well as the consequences of tuberculosis infections, which are still widespread here. Reason enough to improve the medical information in Uganda in order to further reduce the number of acquired hearing reductions.

Only twelve ears, nose and throat physicians for 30 million inhabitants

With an estimated 30 million inhabitants, Uganda is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa. The country’s population count is thus approximately equivalent to that of Canada. However, over 650 ears, nose and throat physicians take care of the Canadian inhabitants, whereas just twelve trained specialists work in the East African state. The number shows just how slim the chance of those affected ever being examined by a specialist is. Specialist treatment is usually reserved for those with the necessary budget. A good reason for the Hear the World Foundation to support the Can-HEAR Uganda Project of the two Canadian audiologists, Renée Lefrancois and Sophie Heley, via financial and equipment donations in 2011.

A great deal of theoretical knowledge, limited practical experience

“We have ascertained that the theoretical knowledge of many physicians in this country is good. However, only a scant few have sufficient practical experience, that’s where we come in”, explains Renée Lefrancois. For two weeks every year project participants from Ottawa und New York travel to Uganda. During that time, they treat as many patients as possible and train the physicians on site. Intensive email contact helps if any queries or problems arise during the rest of the year. “The knowledge and the abilities that we impart to our African colleagues should be passed on by them in turn to students. That’s the only way we can achieve competent medical care in the long term”, is the two Canadians’ stated goal. Every year the two women begin at least one additional research project, as “throughout the ages and across all international borders, scientific research is the strongest driving force for advances in medicine. That applies to Uganda too.”

Dorcus – how a five-year old girl found her voice again

Five and a half year old Dorcus’ grandmother found out just how important the Canadians’ help in Uganda is. She brought the girl to the children’s clinic. Three years beforehand the child had suddenly stopped speaking and had only communicated by pointing and gesticulating since then. The Canadian audiologists examined the girl and quickly identified the problem. Dorcus’ story is typical of Uganda: at the age of 18 months the little one had been treated with quinine against malaria, the medication was wrongly dosed and led to severe bilateral hearing loss. Yet, the physicians were optimistic, as Dorcus had gleaned sufficient hearing experience before her illness to quickly regain her speech. A few days later the girl was fitted with a hearing aid and, after just a few hours of training with the Canadian physician, Sophie Heley, she was able to imitate noises with her own voice and to associate them with the relevant pictures. The beam that spread over the little one’s face when she discovered her “newly” found voice moved all those standing around to tears.

In particular the foundation focuses on projects that support children with hearing loss to ensure that they have every opportunity to reach their full potential.

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