Posted on Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Childhood Hearing Loss Signs and Solutions

Childhood hearing loss can be caused by listening to music to loud through headphones like this young girl is wearing.

Parents of school aged children and younger often wonder what constitutes normal behavior and what serves as a sign a child may be having a problem with their hearing. Hearing loss can occur at any age and is the most common birth defect in the United States. Childhood hearing loss isn’t always easy to recognize.

So what is a parent or grandparent to do in order to detect a true hearing problem? The obvious answer to this dilemma is to make sure that your child gets an annual exam by a certified audiologist. Nothing can replace the vast knowledge and experience of a certified audiologist when it comes to your child’s hearing. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn't also be on the lookout for signs of childhood hearing loss. Without the proper facts, it’s not easy to determine if your child has hearing loss and would do better in school, socially, and emotionally by using a hearing aid. There are six key signs of childhood hearing loss.

Familiarity with the signs of childhood hearing loss is important, because hearing loss can be masked by what is defined as normal childhood behavior. Childhood hearing loss is sometimes misdiagnosed as ADD, or even dismissed because the hearing loss occurs unilaterally, only in one ear.

Speech Problems: If a child says words incorrectly, has delays in language and communication, feels more comfortable with gestures, these could be signs that your child is not hearing everything said or not processing sound in the correct way. Please note, a lisp is not typically associated with hearing loss and is a relatively common speech disorder.

Inattentive: Parents of young children often complain that they don’t answer when called, so how can you tell if it’s “selective” hearing or a genuine hearing problem? The key is in consistency. If a child hears and responds to you a majority of the time, then they may have “tuned” you out on the one occasion they did not respond. But if in addition to repeatedly not answering your calls or responding to things you have said, the child often looks confused when asked a question, seems slow to answer, answers incorrectly or then asks to have things repeated, you could be seeing the first signs of a problem. Asking “What?” more than is typical or if a child needs to be looking directly at you in order to hear--this might indicate they are reading lips, may also be signs of hearing loss.

Hires Volume: Does your child speak too loudly? Do they hire the volume on the television, radio, or computer? Your child may simply be a “loud” child, but they might also be compensating for a hearing problem. Children with unilateral hearing loss are often accused of being loud. This is important, because hearing loss in one ear can be harder to spot as the hearing ear sometimes masks, though it does not compensate for, childhood hearing loss. Studies show unilateral hearing loss can cause the same delays and cognitive problems as hearing loss in both ears.

Not Following Direction: Does your child seem confused by directions, respond inappropriately to something asked—handing a towel when asked for a bottle, or consistently asks for things to be repeated? Children with hearing loss often confuse what is being told to them. That means they have difficulty with language. They can also have issues with speech—how they express themselves. For a clearer understanding on the difference between speech and language, this is how it is described by kidshealth.org:
• Speech is the verbal expression of language and includes articulation, which is the way sounds and words are formed.
• Language is much broader and refers to the entire system of expressing and receiving information in a way that's meaningful. It's understanding and being understood through communication — verbal, nonverbal, and written

Difficulty Learning: Is your child having learning problems in school? Has the teacher complained that he or she is not paying attention? Does the teacher mention the child appears to not listen, ignores directions, or seems unable to keep up with the conversation? According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, “Children who are hard of hearing will find it much more difficult than children who have normal hearing to learn vocabulary, grammar, word order, idiomatic expressions, and other aspects of verbal communication.”

Socially Withdrawn: Does your child avoid social situations, sport, parties or family events? Often times children with hearing loss avoid these get-togethers because there is a feeling of being overwhelmed by an inability to communicate and understand. Please note if you ask a child why they avoid these situations, they might not know themselves. To them their hearing loss is normal, so the child remains unaware that they are not hearing at the same level as everyone else.

Finally, please don’t dismiss your instinct when it comes to childhood hearing loss, especially if the alarm continues to sound despite recent school testing of your child. School is not the place to have your child’s hearing tested and neither is your pediatrician’s office. Pediatricians cannot provide the same level of testing and are not aware of the same hearing issues as a certified audiologist. The reason children suffering with childhood hearing loss are misdiagnosed or go years before a correct diagnosis is that many people seek help from a family doctor or a pediatrician, when they should be seeing their hearing health professional. As Dr. Dana Oviatt points out on his website, "…revolutionary diagnostic hearing tests…allow audiologists to measure the function of the middle ear, inner ear and auditory nerve in even the smallest of infants."

For additional signs of childhood hearing loss—emotional, social, and medical you can check out this list at Advanced Audiology & Hearing Aid Center. And if you have any links on this subject you’d like to share with the People Hearing Better community, please contact dstewart@ahaanet.com.

If you'd like to learn more about hearing loss, hearing heath, and hearing aids click HERE to DOWNLOAD our free guide to hearing health!

This guide will teach you:
▪ The 3 different types of hearing loss
▪ How to help a loved one hear you
▪ 8 different hearing aid styles
▪ Advances in digital and wireless hearing aid technology.


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