Early detection of hearing loss is very important to a child’s development. Speech and language development, academic learning, and social interaction all depend on the ability to understand language, so management of hearing loss at an early age is essential.
Often hearing loss in young children goes undetected. The first hint may be when parents or caregivers notice a difference in the child’s health and development. For families to know when the child needs help, they must understand the medical conditions and behaviours associated with hearing loss. Some hearing problems are temporary and can be improved with medical treatment. Others are permanent and may require the use of hearing aids and other types of specialized supports such as speech and language therapy.
Birth to three months
Three to six months
Six to 10 months
10 to 15 months
15 to 18 months
*Checklist provided by VOICE For Hearing Impaired Children.
There are two main types of hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss is the first. Here, structural problems in the outer or middle ear block the transmission of sound. Common causes of conductive hearing loss are infections, injury and wax buildup. Many children with this type of hearing loss can be helped by treatment for infection or surgery or other measures to remove a blockage.
The second type, sensorineural hearing loss, results from damage in the inner ear or nerve pathways to the brain. Certain sounds are heard less distinctly than others, causing distortion and reduced understanding of speech. Many children with sensorineural hearing loss benefit to some degree from hearing aids.
In about half the cases of childhood sensorineural hearing impairment the cause is genetic, although deafness than runs in the family may not show up until later in life. Children are sometimes born deaf. In some cases this happens because their mothers had a viral infection such as German measles (rubella). Some other causes of hearing loss are birth defects, health problems at birth, certain drugs and medical interventions.
Noise-induced hearing loss is usually gradual and painless, but unfortunately, permanent. Noise from motors, power tools and loud music can be hazardous to hearing.
The ear receives sound waves and sends them through a delicately balanced system to the brain. Part of this system is a chamber in the inner ear filled with fluid and lined with thousands of tiny hair cells. The hair cells signal the auditory nerve to send electrical pulses to the brain. The brain interprets these pulses as sound. When one is exposed to loud or prolonged noise, the hair cells are damaged and the transmission of sound is permanently altered.
Concerned parents may contact VOICE For Hearing Impaired Children at (416) 487- 7719 or www.web.net/~voice. For many conditions, treatment is available. Also, early intervention and education programs are available for children with hearing loss. These play an important role in helping children with hearing concerns reach their full potential.
Early detection of hearing loss is very important to a child’s development. Specialized testing is done for premature infants, those with a family history of deafness and others at high risk for hearing impairment. Sensitive instruments can be used to measure hearing in babies under three months of age, often while the baby is sleeping.
When a child is six months of age or older, gamelike activities can be used to test hearing. During this type of testing, sounds are presented through a speaker or earphone. The child responds to sounds either by turning the head or by playing a game.
If you suspect your child does not hear properly, talk to your family doctor. You may be referred to your local community audiologist. If testing confirms hearing impairment, audiologists can refer you to community support programs.