The secret to having the best outcome for the child is early hearing aid use. The earlier the better.
What are the symptoms of hearing loss in children?
Undetected hearing loss may show up as confusion, stubbornness, moodiness, speech delay and difficulty learning. The child may be inattentive to activities unless they are expressly directed at them. They may get angry and frustrated with activities that require significant interaction with others. Put yourself in the child’s shoes: imagine playing with your toys and suddenly someone is yelling that you aren’t playing with the others the way you should. What just happened? I am in trouble? All I was doing was playing with my toys! Social skills in the hearing impaired child do not develop the same as a normal hearing child.
Hearing loss is not as evident as deafness; however, hearing loss is much more common than deafness. It is reported that two in 1,000 well babies are born with hearing loss and 24% to 46% of babies from the NICU (newborn intensive care unit) have hearing loss. Based on these figures, you can see that hearing loss is a significant issue facing children.
Causes of Hearing Loss According to the American Speech and Hearing Association, some of the common causes of hearing loss in babies are:
Infections, such as rubella or
herpes simplex virus
Low birth weight
Drug and alcohol use while
Jaundice and Rh factor problems
High blood pressure while
Reduced oxygen to the baby during pregnancy
Causes for hearing loss in children are commonly from:
Ototoxic drugs (medicine that damages the auditory system)
Testing for hearing loss
Today, most babies get a hearing test prior to leaving the hospital when they are born. For home births, a hearing test can be scheduled as an outpatient with an audiologist. A screening test is completed first; then, if there is any question about the hearing, a diagnostic test is ordered. The test is quick and completely painless. For young children, the test is completed in a small room while the child sits in the caregiver’s lap. The sound comes from special speakers in the room that mimic wearing headphones. The child does not even know they are being tested. It is just a little room with cartoon videos playing.
Treatment for hearing loss
If a hearing loss is confirmed, the baby or child will be sent to an ENT to rule out hearing loss caused from middle ear fluid. If the hearing loss is determined to be caused by damage to the hearing nerves, then hearing aids are ordered. Today, hearing aids are much more comfortable and have a more natural sound than in years past. The secret to having the best outcome for the child is early hearing aid use. The earlier the better. The more exposure to sound at the earliest possible age gives the child the best chance of learning speech, language and the necessary social skills to keep up with their peers. I have fit hearing aids on babies as young as four weeks.
In addition to hearing aids, it is important to enroll the child in speech therapy as quickly as possible. Again, we are racing against the clock and need to expose that beautiful little brain to as much sound and learning opportunity as possible, as young as possible. The brain learns speech easiest prior to the age of two. You would be amazed at the amount of learning a child does when playing around the house. We want to take advantage of every single opportunity to learn. A speech pathologist will teach the caregivers how to expose the child to the best speech opportunities and will work with the child so they understand how to produce sounds.
A team approach with an audiologist, speech pathologist and the caregivers is imperative to ensure the best opportunity for a successful outcome. QCBN
By Karon Lynn, Au.D.
Trinity Hearing Center is located at 1330 N. Rim Dr., Suite B in Flagstaff. For more information, visit TrinityHearing.net.
Karon Lynn, Au.D., is a doctor of audiology with 30 years of experience working with hearing impaired individuals. Dr. Lynn may be reached at 928-522-0500 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.