Hearing loss in children
The first 3 years of life is the most important time for a child to learn language. Hearing is essential for a child’s development right from birth. Hearing and sight are some of the most important senses a child uses to orientate themselves in the world and which they need in their future development.
It is important to identify hearing problems as early as possible because they can affect your child’s speech and language development, social skills and education. Hearing loss in infancy can be difficult to recognize. In almost two thirds of cases, parents are the first to suspect hearing loss, with other health care providers suspecting it first in approximately 15% of cases, and paediatricians in roughly 10%.
Early hearing screening as well as paying attention to the child’s responses and general behaviour is important for starting treatment as early as possible. Children as young as age 4 weeks can benefit from a hearing aid.
Hearing milestones your baby should reach in the first year:
- Most new-born infants startle to sudden loud noises.
- By 3 months, a baby usually recognizes a parent’s voice.
- By 6 months, a baby can usually turn his/her eyes or head toward sound.
- By 12 months, a baby can usually imitate some sounds and produce a few words.
With a simple hearing test, 80-90% of hearing loss can be detected. But even if your child passes the new-born screening test, hearing loss that is genetic or progressive in nature can manifest itself when your child is a toddler or older.
Parents are recommended to watch for the critical developmental milestones in the child as they can be used as a guide to help detect a possible hearing loss.
The most important clue that indicates a possible hearing loss is delayed or absent speech.
Small children will typically have a hearing screening carried out in which an instrument is used to measure whether there is any sign of hearing loss. An OAE (otoacoustic emissions) or AABR (automated auditory brainstem response) test is used to screen for hearing loss. No activity is required from your baby, other than lying still. Screening takes only a few minutes and results are available immediately.
A possible hearing loss is more difficult to identify in older children, whose speech skills are already developed.
Nevertheless, the following guidelines can help parents detect a possible acquired hearing loss.
- Your child seems to hear fine sometime and then not respond at other times
- Your child wants the TV volume louder than other members of the family
- Your child says “What?” more often
- Your child moves one ear forward when listening, or he complains that he can only hear out of his “good ear”.
- Your child’s grades fall or his teacher notes that he does not seem to hear or respond as well in the classroom as other children.
- Your child says that he didn’t hear you. This may seem obvious, but many parents assume that their children are not paying attention when in fact there may be an unidentified hearing loss.
- It appears your child is just not paying attention.
- Your child starts to speak more loudly than previously.
- If your child looks at you intensely when you speak to him, as if concentrating, he may be depending more on visual cues for interpreting speech.
- You just have a feeling, but you can’t put your finger on what your concern is. Don’t let that stop you. Make an appointment at an audiologist to ease your mind.
Older children will typically be given a battery of hearing tests to determine the type and degree of hearing loss. If a child has a hearing loss, it is important that they are treated as soon as possible.
I continue to believe that if children are given the necessary tools to succeed, they will succeed beyond their wildest dreams!”
— David Vitter, Former U.S. Senator