Hearing loss in babies has huge effects on their general development: hearing loss impacts language acquisition, speech, psycho-social well being and overall learning.
Research shows that the critical time to stimulate the auditory and brain pathways is during the first six (6) months of your child’s life. So pay particular attention during your child’s first six months that he or she continues to hear normally.
The good news is that children with all degrees of hearing loss — who receive appropriate interventions prior to 6 months of age– can obtain speech and language skills comparable to their normal hearing peers when age 3 years.
What parents can do:
Check and re-check that your baby’s hearing remains normal. Visit your pediatrician for screenings as your doctor recommends. Research recommends hearing screening every 2 months until age one year — and every three months until age two.
Keep this in mind:
Even mild hearing loss can significantly interfere with the reception of spoken language and educational performance. Research shows that children with one ear hearing loss are ten (10) times as likely to be held back at least one year compared to children with normal hearing.
Many children are affected with ear infections: Chronic otis media (ear infections) affects 5 – 30% of children age 6 to 11 years and can persist 4 – 5 months with or without medical interventions.
Watch for possible symptoms of hearing and ear problems. Does your child: Tug at his/her ear; turn side of head towards parent; appear inattentive; strain when listening; make frequent mistakes following directions; day dreams; tend to isolate; tire easily; talk too loudly or too softly; have a speech problem; appear passive.
Does your child appear to have pain in their ear? Do you see redness or drainage from the ear?
Methods to assess for hearing loss in young children:
Otoacoustic Emissions Technology (OAE)
Otoacoustic Emissions is a hearing test that uses a small probe inserted into the external ear to introduce a sound stimulus (series of beeps) and measures the response sound, like an echo, emitted by the inner ear (cochlea) of a normal hearing person. The cochlea of a person with a hearing loss greater than 25-30 dB does not emit a sound in response to a sound stimulus.
Many studies have shown that screening children 0 – 3 years of age may be beneficial with OAEs. The OAE technology is very good for children who are unable to respond to a sound by raising their hand or dropping a toy in a bucket to indicate a response to the stimulus.
Children with developmental delays [possible autistic spectrum issues, possible intellectual disability] may not understand or often refuse to follow simple directions. OAE may be a useful screening for children with developmental delays.
Note that OAE may not detect mild hearing loss (20 dB to 40 dB) which may affect performance in school. The gold standard for screening children over age three is with a pure tone audiometer conducted by properly trained personnel.
To summarize: Parents can greatly reduce possible hearing loss in babies and young children with appropriate interventions. Know why its so important that children hear normally. Get medical attention immediately when young children appear to have difficulties with hearing normally.
Take children for routine screenings every 2 months during first year or as your pediatrician recommends. Watch for signs of possible ear infection and behaviors that indicate difficulties with hearing. Knowledge, parent involvement and appropriate medical interventions to improve hearing are particularly crucial during your child’s first six months. Parents can do a lot to reduce hearing loss in babies and young children.
In CA, children with developmental delays are typically referred for Early Start services. Early Start services are provided through the government from birth until the child turns three years old.
Roughly 70% of the children referred for Early Start services in CA are due to speech delays.
And, a very important medical questions is: Can this child hear normally? If a child applying for Early Start services cannot hear normally different medical interventions are needed to address hearing loss.
In Santa Cruz County assessment for Early Start services is done via various vendors. These vendors provide assessment reports concerning the overall development of the child/ applicant for Early Start services.
Whether or not the applicant for Early Start services can hear normally is vital to determining the appropriate kind of services to provide to the child.
Any parent who applies for Early Start services in Santa Cruz County should check with the vendor and whoever receives the assessment report and inquire about their child’s hearing abilities. Was the child’s hearing abilities screened? Can the child hear normally? And if the child does not hear normally, what appropriate medical services are recommended?
Remember the first sentences of this post: Hearing loss in young babies has profound effects on the general development of a child. And, parents can help in many ways so that their child hears and develops normally.
written by DrCameronJackson@gmail.com