Did you know that three out of every 1,000 children are born with hearing loss in the United States today? Thankfully, we live in a time where the solutions for hearing loss are numerous, and technology is better than ever.
There are many reasons for hearing loss in children. Sometimes merely the buildup of fluid from the birth can cause an infant to fail an in-hospital hearing screening. Some illnesses during pregnancy, such as rubella or cytomegalovirus, can cause hearing loss in newborns. Other known risk factors include; ototoxic drugs (drugs or medicines that are known to cause damage to the ears), jaundice, prolonged medical ventilation, oxygen deprivation low Apgar scores, or a history of hearing loss in the family. Typically, permanent hearing loss is due to damage to the auditory nerve, which transmits sound from the inner ear to the brain.
Luckily most of these cases are diagnosed early on, and parents can begin looking at possible solutions to help their child better communicate with the world around them. Infants can be fit with hearing aids as early as four weeks of age. There are several other approaches to hearing loss, such as ASL, combined auditory-oral and auditory-verbal options, or cochlear implants. Regardless of the communication approach, it is essential to address hearing loss early on in infants.
Hearing loss in infants can have dramatic effects on their cognitive abilities and comprehension of language and communication when those with normal hearing start learning a language with simple word comprehension as early as six months. Without screening as a newborn or infant, children younger than three can have undetected hearing loss.
Newborns, before being discharged from the hospital, most states now require primary hearing screening. A trained nurse or medical assistant can conduct this simple test. If the baby does not pass the initial screening and secondary screening at the hospital or birthing clinic, they’re referred to a specialist known as an audiologist.
Audiologists have a minimum of a master’s degree in hearing sciences. They assist in conducting more in-depth diagnostic testing that will determine whether or not the baby has a hearing loss. If a hearing loss is present, the audiologist will help the parents find further treatment and solutions.
There are two ways to test a baby’s hearing; the ABR Test (auditory brainstem response) or the OAE measurement (otoacoustic emission). Both tests do not require responses from the baby; however, they are both very accurate and useful in detecting a hearing impairment. These tests can both be conducted by an audiologist while the baby is calm or sleeping.
If a screening and diagnostic evaluation find that the baby does have hearing loss, the next step is to determine a solution. Hearing aids can be used as a treatment, depending on the level and type of hearing loss the infant has. The parent’s involvement in the child’s hearing treatment is significant.
Signs in young children
Some children may not develop a hearing loss until later in life. Untreated ear infections, whooping cough, mumps, measles, head injuries, and loud noise exposure are known to cause hearing loss in young children. Some medications can cause damage to the inner ear, resulting in hearing impairment.
Many of the signs of hearing loss in children are the same as those in adults. Indications include misunderstanding directions, asking for others to repeat themselves, speaking loudly, listening to the television or radio at high volumes, or not responding to speech. The difference with hearing loss in children is that it’s misinterpreted as another issue.
In school, some signs of hearing loss may be misinterpreted as behavior problems. A student who is quiet and withdrawn during class or struggles to follow directions may have a hearing loss, rather than a learning disability. Children who frequently ask for others to repeat themselves or get frustrated when they cannot communicate properly should have their hearing tested—even if they had a hearing screening as a newborn.
Solutions for Children with hearing loss:
There are a variety of options for children with hearing loss. These technologies range from hearing aids that suit mild to severe hearing loss or cochlear implants for more severe cases. Modern hearing aids are very advanced and can offer amplification explicitly programmed to the wearer’s degree of hearing loss and active lifestyle. Children can benefit from different features on hearing aids include directional listening and background noise reduction. These features can be necessary tools when the child with hearing loss starts school. Another tool that can help children when they are in school is an FM system.
For young children, most audiologists will fit Behind-the-Ear will meet the needs of most degrees of hearing loss. The BTE microphone and primary unit sit comfortably behind the ear and comes in a variety of colors to fit a child’s preference. This hearing aid directs sound to the inner ear through a small transparent tube. Because the larger casing protects the mechanical components of the device, this option is ideal for young children. A locking battery door is a common feature among hearing aids for young children to prevent choking hazards. Older children can use the BTE styles of hearing.
Hearing aids for kids can be customized to have unique colors or designs to express their personality. Many hearing aid manufacturers make their pediatric devices in several vibrant colors (some have options for glitter or patterns). For BTE styles, the tubing can also have a color. Pediatric hearing aids have special features such as waterproofing, dust-proofing, locking battery doors.
FM Systems are hearing accessories that also benefit children. In loud classrooms, children may struggle to listen to the teacher speaking. The FM system uses a microphone worn by the teacher during class. It transmits sound directly to the student’s hearing aids. Not only will it reduce background noise in the classroom, but it also helps the child focus on what the teacher is saying. Most schools have an FM system available for students to use.
The Importance of Hearing
Because so much of learning speech is dependent upon hearing and imitating sounds, addressing hearing loss is vital and treated as soon as possible. Hearing loss treatments are usually more successful if started early. Studies have shown that those with normal hearing begin learning a language with simple word comprehension as soon. Those with normal hearing start learning a language with simple word comprehension as early as six months. One study showed that children with even mild hearing loss are a full grade behind their normal-hearing peers–often in reading skills. Reading is a crucial element in almost all other subjects; this leads to falling behind in those subjects as well. Fortunately, there are many communication solutions available for kids with hearing impairments, and most cases are diagnoses early in life. Children should be screened for hearing loss at least every three years.
For a free screening, call Salem Audiology Clinic Today!