Pediatric Hearing Loss
Three million children under the age of 18 have some degree of hearing loss, including four out of every thousand newborns. It is important for parents and caregivers to be watchful of the signs of hearing loss in their children and seek a professional diagnosis. Left untreated, hearing loss can significantly increase the risk of speech and language developmental delays.
Hearing loss is the most common birth disorder in the United States. Many studies have shown that early diagnosis of hearing loss is crucial to the development of speech, language, cognitive, and psychosocial abilities. Treatment is most successful if hearing loss is identified early, preferably within the first month of life. Still, one in every four children born with serious hearing loss does not receive a diagnosis until age three or older.
The first opportunity to test a child's hearing is in the hospital shortly after birth. If your child's hearing is not screened before leaving the hospital, it is recommended that screening be done within the first month of life. Should test results indicate a possible hearing loss, seek further evaluation as soon as possible; preferably within the first three to six months of life.
Hearing loss in children can be temporary or permanent. It is important to have hearing loss evaluated by a physician who can rule out medical problems that may be causing the hearing loss, such as otitis media (ear infection), excessive earwax, congenital malformations, or a genetic hearing loss.
If it is determined that your child's hearing loss is permanent, hearing aids may be recommended to amplify the sound reaching your child's ear. Ear surgery may be able to restore or significantly improve hearing in some instances. For those with certain types of profound hearing loss who do not benefit sufficiently from hearing aids, a cochlear implant may be considered. Unlike a hearing aid, a cochlear implant bypasses damaged parts of the auditory system and directly stimulates the hearing nerve and allows the child to hear louder and clearer sound.
KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER:
- Ninety-five percent of babies with hearing loss are born to hearing and speaking families.
- The problem with hearing loss is that it keeps sound from reaching the brain. Hearing loss is not about the ears: it is about the brain.
- Degree of hearing loss is no longer a factor in determining the functional outcome for infants and children since auditory brain centers can be accessed and developed through the early use of amplification and cochlear implants.
- Putting on hearing aids or cochlear implant(s) is not enough. The child also needs an abundance of auditorily-based verbal interaction with the parent.
If you have concerns about how well your child may be hearing, please contact us today to schedule an initial evaluation. Our team of experts will be glad to guide you through the process of any testing or treatment necessary to optimize your child's auditory development and outcome.
For additional information, the Iowa chapter of EDHI (Early Detection & Hearing Intervention) offers an excellent Family Resource Guide you can download here.