Without extra help, children experiencing hearing loss have many problems learning language. This delay can cause other delays with time. The earlier they start getting services, the more likely they will be able to reach their full potential. It is very normal for you as a parent to feel overwhelmed and anxious about your child’s condition. However, rest assured that there are many treatments and solutions available.
What is hearing loss?
Hearing loss can be identified when one part of the ear stops functioning in the usual way. This comprises the outer ear, inner ear, middle ear, hearing nerves and the auditory system as a whole.
Hearing loss can occur at any time, starting from birth to adulthood. Some causes of hearing loss in children and risk factors increase the chance of a child to have hearing loss:
Maternal infections during pregnancy
Complications after birth in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)
Having face, head or ears formed in different ways than usual
Neurological disorders associated with hearing loss
Meningitis- an infection that surrounds parts of the brain and spinal cord
Ear infections/ otitis media
What is hearing loss in children?
Hearing loss is a mixture of both loss of volume and pitch. Some children might struggle to hear high-pitched sounds. This is known as high-frequency hearing loss. Others have the reverse, known as low-frequency hearing loss.
To fully understand the pediatric hearing loss, it is very important to know what degree they have in each ear, as well as what pitches are harder to hear.
Some babies are born with hearing loss. This is known as congenital hearing loss. Others might be affected by acquired hearing loss, which occurs after birth. Some children might experience hearing loss that comes and goes. This is known as temporary or fluctuating hearing loss. Others might experience permanent hearing loss, known also as sensorineural hearing loss. this is a problem in the inner ear, affecting the transmission of sound signals to the brain.
Signs and symptoms
Different children face different symptoms. Babies and children should reach specific milestones when playing, learning, communicating and acting. Any interruption in these milestones could be an indication of hearing impairment.
If you think your child might have hearing loss, you have to execute a hearing screening as early as possible. Hearing screening can show if there is hearing loss. It is a very easy, quick and not painful procedure.
Usually babies are asleep while they are being screened in the hospital. They should have a hearing screening before the age of one month.
Hearing tests are a must, no later than 3 months, in case hearing screening wasn’t performed once born.
Children should have their screening before entering school.
Hearing loss in child symptoms vary from child to child. Even if you performed a hearing screening before, it is very critical to look out for the following signs:
Signs in babies
Do not get surprised from loud noises
Do not turn to the source of sound after the age of 6 months
Do not talk complete words such as “dada” or “mama” by the age of one
Hear certain sounds and not all
Signs in children
Delay in speech
Unclear speech- hearing only parts of the conversation or asking to repeat what is being said
Not paying attention or following directions
Watching TV at a very loud sound
Difficulty hearing everyday sounds such as morning announcements or school bells
Learning and academic problems
Speaking differently than other children
Not replying when hearing their name
Earaches and ear pain
Dizziness, stuffiness or ringing in the ears
Importance of identifying hearing loss in children
Families whose children suffer from hearing loss often need to change their communication habits and learn new communication skills to help their children learn language. These skills can be combined with hearing aids, cochlear implants and many other devices in order to hear better. It is very important for your child’s hearing loss to be treated in order to reduce the effect on their education and social life.
For many parents, children’s hearing loss can be unexpected. They sometimes need time and extra support to adapt to this situation. This support could include information, advice, meeting other parents who have similar cases in their houses, locating deaf mentors, personal relaxation or just providing a supportive listener.
Unidentified hearing loss can impact the access to early spoken language.it also affects their cognitive, behavioral, and social development.
Intervention and treatment services
There are many different types of communication options that could be the solution for hearing loss in children and their families. The assessment of hearing loss, the treatment and the management involve inter professional processes and collaboration between different experts. Audiologists, pediatricians, speech-language pathologists, otolaryngologists and other specialists should all be involved in the treatment process, depending on the child’s needs.
Research has shown that treating hearing loss before the age of six months results in significantly better language and speech outcomes than treating it later. It also boosts their school performance with time.
Sign language and lip reading
Facial expressions and body movement help the child to communicate better from an early age and participate more in social interactions. It also improves cognitive development.
Sign language requires the use of multiple senses, involving touch, vision and proprioception. It involves movement of the face and hands.
It helps improve memory because it enables the child to associate signs with specific meanings. It increases the child’s access to communication and information.
Untreated hearing loss drastically affects school performance. Schools have a responsibility as well. Educational audiologists can be a great help. Teachers can:
Pause during lessons.
Repeat or rephrase information when needed.
Use a comfortable volume and talk slowly.
Use visual cues and models.
Stand closer to the child and face them.
Allow the child to change seats, as needed, for discussions, demonstrations or other activities in the class.
- Hearing aids
They are small electronic and medical devices that amplify sound and help children hear clearly again. There are many pediatric hearing aids which offer high-quality hearing assistance. There are also special coverings and accessories that ensure the children can’t misplace or remove their hearing aids.
They are usually customized to the child’s level of hearing loss.
Encourage your child to wear their hearing aids all the time. You have to understand that they might not want to wear them. Here where your job comes:
You should celebrate small successes until these hearing aids are worn full time.
You should carry extra batteries in case the hearing aids require batteries.
Utilize a hearing aid clip that helps to attach the hearing aid to the clothes.
Reduce any background noise whenever possible.
They are surgically implanted devices that stimulate the auditory nerve in the inner ears with electrical stimulation. Kid-friendly devices are manufactured recently. They are held on with a soft headband. They are used in the case when infants and children cannot benefit from hearing aids.
The implants have two parts: the surgically implanted device and a processor that the child wears behind the ear or on the head.
- Assistive listening devices
These devices work in accordance with hearing aids and cochlear implants in classrooms. FM systems, for instance, help overcome poor acoustics of the classroom setting. Teachers can wear a discreet microphone that transmits their voice directly to the child’s hearing aids or cochlear implants, or to the speakers around the classroom.
- Ear tubes
These are small vents that remain in the ear temporarily. They help fluid to drain properly and to prevent ear infections. They are placed around the age of one, but they can be used in children as young as 3 months in very severe cases.
It is done in an operating room while the child is under anesthesia. It lasts for a few minutes.
After getting hearing aids and cochlear implants, children with hearing loss might need speech-language therapy to catch up on speech delays.
Speech therapists help the child to make sounds, interact with others and improve their voices.
Sound development: hearing sounds and repeating them through speech
Articulation: generating clear sounds and words with speech
Grammatical structures: using convenient word endings to construct appropriate and clear sentences
Specific antibiotics pills and ear drops aid in treating hearing loss.
Surgery helps to correct problems with the structure of the middle and outer ears.
Family support services
Help stay on schedule with the child’s language, speech and communication skills
Enhance the understanding of the child’s hearing loss and special communication requirements
Support the family emotionally, giving them the confidence in raising a child with hearing loss
Keep track of the progress the child is performing
Help in making decisions for education and intervention as the child develops
If you are a parent and you doubt your child suffers from hearing loss, trust your instincts and seek medical help. The earlier it is diagnosed; the better appropriate treatment can be executed to help your child speak and hear as well as possible.