Hearing impairment and deafness among HIV infected children and adolescents in Harare, Zimbabwe
Background: Among HIV-infected children ear infections are recurrent and chronic, which may lead to hearing loss.
Objective: To determine the prevalence, cause and severity of hearing impairment among HIV-infected children aged 5-17 years attending for HIV care in Harare.
Design and Setting: An analytical cross-sectional survey conducted at Newlands Clinic, an opportunistic infections clinic in Harare.
Materials and Methods: Participants underwent a standardised otoscopic examination of the ear and Pure Tone Audiometry (PTA). Factors associated with hearing impairment were investigated using multivariate logistic regression.
Results: Three hundred and eighty (380) participants (55% female and mean age 11 years (SD: 3.3 years)) were consecutively recruited. The vast majority of participants (n=338; 89% were taking antiretroviral therapy (ART) for a median of 3 (IQR: 2-5) years at recruitment, and the most recent median CD4 Count (i.e. CD4 count measured within 6 months of the study recruitment) was 725 (IQR: 497-1000) cells/µL, with no difference by ART status. 61% (n= 231) of participants had an abnormal ear examination. Of the 359 participants who underwent audiometry, the prevalence of hearing impairment was 32.3% (95%CI: 27.5%-37.4%) based on a PTA threshold ≥26Db. Hearing impairment was associated with a recent CD4 count <350cell/µL (OR 2.1, P<0.037).
Conclusion: There is a high prevalence of hearing impairment among HIV-infected children and adolescents. Low CD4 count remains a risk factor even among those who are on ART. We recommend that HIV infected children and adolescents, particularly those with low CD4 counts, should have routine evaluation of hearing as part of HIV care.