Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Children with hearing impairment in Malawi, a cohort study

Wakisa Mulwafu, Myroslava Tataryn, Sarah Polack, Asgaut Viste, Frederik Kragerud Goplen & Hannah Kuper

Objective

To assess the outcomes of children diagnosed with hearing impairment 3 years earlier in terms of referral uptake, treatment received and satisfaction with this treatment, and social participation.

Methods

We conducted a population-based longitudinal analysis of children with a hearing impairment in two rural districts of Malawi. Key informants within the community identified the cohort in 2013 (baseline). Informants clinically screened children at baseline, and by questionnaires at baseline and follow-up in 2016. We investigated associations between sociodemographic characteristics and outcomes by multivariate logistic regression.

Results

We diagnosed 752 children in 2013 as having a hearing impairment and traced 307 (40.8%) children of these for follow-up in 2016. Referral uptake was low (102/184; 55.4%), more likely among older children (odds ratio, OR: 3.5; 95% confidence interval, CI: 1.2–10.2) and less likely for those with an illiterate caregiver (OR: 0.5; 95% CI: 0.2–0.9). Few of the children who attended hospital received any treatment (33/102; 32.4%) and 63.6% (21/33) of caregivers reported satisfaction with treatment. Difficulty making friends and communicating needs was reported for 10.0% (30/299) and 35.6% (107/301) of the children, respectively. Lack of school enrolment was observed for 29.5% (72/244) of children, and was more likely for older children (OR: 28.6; 95% CI: 10.3–79.6), girls (OR: 2.4; 95% CI: 1.2–4.8) and those with an illiterate caregiver (OR: 2.1; 95% CI: 1.0–4.1).

Conclusion

More widespread and holistic services are required to improve the outcomes of children with a hearing impairment in Malawi.