Early Detection of Hearing Impairment in Children is Key for Success

It is easy to take hearing for granted, but when it is lost or impaired the impact is astounding and even more so for a child.  Each year in the US approximately 12,000 children are born deaf or hearing impaired and when left undetected or untreated, major complications can arise.  Hearing loss can affect a child’s language development, social interactions, emotional development, and academic performance.  Communication development and behavioral skills are also significantly influenced by a child’s ability to hear.  So the question is “How can we identify hearing problems in children?”

  •  First, let’s take a few minutes to understand the four different types of hearing  loss:
  •  Conductive – hearing loss resulting from disorders of the outer and/or middle ear (ear infections or abnormal ear structures)
  • Sensorineural – hearing loss resulting from disorders of the inner ear that carries auditory signals to the brain (results of meningitis, noise exposure or problems at birth)
  • Mixed – a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss
  • Central – results from disorders of the central auditory nervous system (This type of hearing loss will not be identified through school hearing screening programs and can only be made by an audiologist)

As a parent you are likely to be the first person to notice a hearing problem with your child, so be on the lookout for the following indications.  Infants and toddlers often experience the following:

  • Do not react to loud noises
  • Do not respond to your voice
  • Make simple sounds that eventually taper off
  • Do not repeat sounds you make
  • Do not respond to simple instructions

For older pre-school or school aged children, you might notice the following:

  • Turning up the volume of the TV excessively high
  • Responding inappropriately to questions
  • Does not reply when you call
  • Watches others to imitate what they are doing
  • Has articulation problems or speech / language delays
  • Is having academic problems
  • Complains of earaches, ear pain or head noises
  • Has difficulty understanding what people are saying

If you suspect your child may have a hearing impairment, check out The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders which has compiled a comprehensive checklist on how to detect hearing loss.  Early intervention is key and experts agree that it can lead to better outcomes and can significantly increase the likelihood for children to reach their full learning and developmental potential.

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