• Hearing loss in children (cont.)

    Hearing loss in children (continue)

    A baby’s hearing fully develops while he is still in the womb, and it plays a key role from the very first moment of his life.  Hearing allows children to understand speech, which will help them to understand abstract concepts.  From infancy, our ears constantly supply us with vital information and enable us to experience emotions.  Our sense of hearing also allows us to recognize danger, and even when we are asleep, our ears remain receptive to unusual or important sounds.

    What causes hearing loss in children?  About 3 to 4 in every 1000 newborn babies have significant hearing impairment.  Hearing loss can be inherited or can be caused by illness or injury.  Genetic factors are the cause of about 50% of all cases of congenital hearing loss in children

    Prenatal illnesses account for 5-10% of the cases of congenital hearing loss and include infections during pregnancy, toxins consumed by the mother during pregnancy or other conditions occurring at the time of birth or shortly thereafter.  Babies born prematurely also have an increased risk of having a hearing loss.

    After birth, trauma to the head or childhood infections, such as meningitis or measles can cause permanent hearing loss.  Certain medications can be the cause of a child’s hearing problems.  Temporary hearing loss are usually caused by ear infections like Otitis Media but it can lead to a permanent hearing impairment if left untreated, and must be treated quickly and correctly.

    Generally, earwax serves a useful purpose and does not harm your child.  If, however, your child suffers from hearing loss due to excessive earwax, go to your family doctor for help.  Do not try to remove earwax yourself.  Never put cotton buds or other objects into your child’s ears.  You could cause permanent damage to your child’s hearing.

    When you are worried about your child’s hearing it is essential that your child be tested by an audiologist to confirm your suspicions.  The audiologist will refer your child to an ear, nose and throat specialist for treatment if the cause of the hearing problem is temporary in nature.  If there is permanent damage she will assist you in making important decisions regarding your child’s hearing.

    When you realize that your child is suffering from hearing loss, you will probably feel shocked and helpless, at first. It may be difficult to accept what the doctors tell you, which is a perfectly normal reaction, and it can take time to accept the reality of a hearing loss.

    After some time, you will come to terms with the situation. Your and your child’s task then becomes to make the best of it. By then, you will have asked yourself many questions about your child’s daily life and future. But we are all different, and no two parents react in the same way.

    The best approach is to be honest and open-minded. Ask all the questions you can think of. Seek help from audiologists, doctors, other parents in the same situation, family and friends. The professionals can provide information and guidance. Parents of hearing-impaired children can help you with their experience. Family and friends may provide you with psychological and moral support.

    Remember that you are not the first parent to have a hearing-impaired child and that hearing-impaired children are better able to cope than you might realize.

    If your child suffers from hearing loss, hearing aids may be the best remedy to improve the hearing ability and minimize the adverse effects of his or her hearing problem.

    Fitting with hearing aids at the youngest possible age is extremely important. An untreated hearing loss strongly affects your child’s ability to learn, socialize and communicate. When your child has begun using hearing aids, you must remember that it takes time to get used to them.

    If your child needs hearing aids, there are many things you must consider.

    • Type and degree of your child’s hearing loss.
    • Your child’s general abilities and level of activity. The hearing aids must be robust and able to withstand the impact from normal playing and resistant to dust and moisture.
    • The hearing aids must have audio ports for hook-up to radio transmission in classrooms and elsewhere.
    • Children often like colourfully finished hearing aids.

    Parents of young children should also be aware of the hearing aid feature allowing them to deactivate the manual volume control. Young children have difficulty properly setting the sound level.

    When so many factors are involved, you will need the assistance of an experienced audiologist. She can help you find the right hearing aid for your child, fit and adjust it, and inform you about all relevant aspects of hearing impairment and hearing aids.

    The best way to help is by being loving and understanding. Getting used to hearing aids requires strong motivation, support and participation from you as a parent. Advanced, well-fitted hearing aids are not very useful if the child does not wear them or if they are not maintained.

    Your child needs to be involved with the problem and understand why he or she should wear hearing aids. During this process, communication and motivation are very important for your child’s willingness to wear hearing aids. The greater the involvement and the more the child understands, the greater the willingness.

    Every child learns, socializes, communicates and grows up. What children learn, how they socialize and how they communicate depend on the individual as well as social and cultural factors. Every child grows up in his or her own unique way. This is, of course, the case for a hearing-impaired child, as well.

    Hearing loss does not necessarily limit the child’s development, communication, learning or socializing. But growing up with a hearing loss is different from growing up with normal hearing – and sometimes it is more difficult and demanding.

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