Speech and hearing are extremely important for a child to learn, play and develop social skills. If a child is suffering from a hearing loss, the child will end up missing much of everything going around him/her. This causes a delay in developing speech and language, which can further result in academic difficulty and social issues. Approximately 2 out of 100 children are affected by hearing loss of different extent. Thankfully, with the aid of modern technology, there is some form of assistance for almost all hearing loss cases.
Early diagnosis is the most effective
For a treatment to be most effective, early intervention is necessary. Diagnosing the hearing issue, using suitable hearing aids and starting special education programs early can be helpful in maximizing the hearing of children. If the condition is treated early, the child has good chances of successfully developing speech and language.
In most hospitals, the hearing of newborns is tested before they leave the hospital. In other hospitals, only the infants with a risk of hearing issues, like the ones whose family member is deaf, are tested. Several states require all infants to be tested for hearing issues by law. If your baby hasn’t had the test yet, you should consult with the hospital or a pediatrician on how to get your child diagnosed.
Severe hearing issues may be noticed by the parents if their child doesn’t respond to sound or if the kid has delayed speech or difficulty while talking. If the hearing issue isn’t that severe, the symptoms are more subtle. Often times, it results in behaviors that can be misinterpreted by doctors and parents. These include:
- The child ignoring people when they are being talked to at times, but not always
- The child can hear and talk properly at home but has difficulties in doing so at school. In such cases, moderate or mild hearing issues are only problematic when there is background noise.
In general, terms, if your child is showing good development in a particular setting but there are noticeable behavioral, social, learning or language problems in another setting, you should screen them for possible hearing loss.
Some of the common causes of hearing loss among children include:
- Otitis media: This is a condition when the middle ear of young children gets infected. This happens because the Eustachian tubes, the ones connecting the nose to the middle ear, are not completely formed. Even if the condition doesn’t result in any infection or pain, hearing can be impaired by the fluid. If the condition is serious and lasts longer than expected, it can potentially cause permanent loss of hearing.
- Hearing issues at birth: In some cases, children have hearing issues since birth. If that happens, the hearing impairment is usually associated with the genetics of the child. It may even happen from prenatal care or during pregnancy. There are chances of hearing troubles with the baby if the pregnant woman also has medical conditions such as preeclampsia or diabetes. The risk of hearing issues is higher with premature birth as well.
- Injury or illnesses: A young child may lose hearing after getting certain illnesses like meningitis, measles, encephalitis, the flu, and chickenpox. Extremely loud noises, injury to the head and certain medication can also contribute to the loss of hearing.
It is possible to restore hearing if the cause of the issue or ear defect can be reversed. For example, ear drops can be used to dissolve earwax or they can be removed manually as well. Infections to the ear can be treated through surgery or antibiotics. Surgical removal of cholesteatomas is also possible. In most cases, it is not possible to reverse the cause of loss of hearing in a child. In such cases, the treatment requires the child to use hearing aids for compensating for the impairment to the greatest extent possible. You can find hearing aids for all children, from infants to the older ones. An earphone or hearing aid can be utilized if a hearing is impaired only in one ear. In case of severe hearing loss, cochlear implants can be used as well.