Hearing is an integral part of a child’s growth and development from the very first minute they enter the world. By six months, hearing deficits can have an impact on a child’s ability to thrive.
Adequate hearing gives a child the tools he needs to perceive the world around them, to understand language, and to pick up on non-verbal audible cues. Without hearing, development in these areas can be stunted or halted altogether.
According to national statistics, about one in one thousand babies are born with hearing loss. Hearing loss cases rise as children grow older, either from environmental factors, or from repeated illness, or other factors.
Hearing loss can occur at birth or after birth. It can be induced by the environment, or take place as a result of illness or hereditary conditions. Complications at birth can result in congenital hearing loss in addition to genetic factors that cause babies to be born with reduced hearing capability.
Factors that can contribute to congenital hearing loss include brain disorders, nervous system disorders, unsafe medications used by the mother during pregnancy, infection during pregnancy, maternal diabetes, premature birth, and maternal drug or alcohol abuse, genetic conditions such as Usher Syndrome, Crouzon Syndrome, Down Syndrome, and others.
Non-congenital hearing loss can result from a variety of circumstances in babies, toddlers, and young children such as a perforated eardrum, Otosclerosis, meningitis, measles, whooping cough, ototoxic medications, head injuries, noise exposure, and others.
Having your child screened for hearing loss on a regular basis from day one is crucial for the proper advocacy for your child. Technological advances in hearing detection have made early screening a simple, commonplace process in most hospitals, performed shortly after birth.
In between screenings, always be on the lookout for signs of hearing loss in your baby or child. These signs include failure to jump at loud noises at infancy, non-responsiveness to your voice, not making babbling sounds at appropriate ages, speaking delay, failure to follow requests, non-responsiveness to her name, etc.
Knowing the signs of hearing loss, and all of the resources available to you to preserve your child’s hearing is the first step to preventing or effectively managing the condition. Understand your child’s hearing, make sure he receives regular screening, and be on the lookout for signs of hearing loss.
If your child does have hearing loss, you will be the biggest advocate for her. Make sure you understand all the resources that are available to you, whether that be through the medical care you receive, within the school environment, or at home.
It will be your job to make sure your child is receiving all of the help necessary to optimize their hearing and adequately manage the hearing loss they’ve incurred.
Hearing loss can be treated with a variety of interventions depending on the severity of the damage. Hearing aids come in a large variety of sizes and placement options. While some are more expensive than others, most can do an efficient job of amplification when needed.
An option for more significant hearing loss is cochlear implants. Cochlear implants consist of a device that’s surgically placed in a location behind the ear where it can stimulate the auditory nerve directly.
Other options include speech therapy to help mitigate the side effects of hearing loss on speech and assistive listening devices that can help amplify specific speech sounds in isolated settings.