12,000 babies are born each year with hearing loss; making childhood hearing loss the number one birth defect in the United States. Hearing loss is also on the rise among children and adolescents, including a noticeable increase in noise induced hearing loss (NIHL). It is well known that childhood hearing loss can cause the same kind of emotional stress and isolation as adult hearing loss, but there is an added complication. Children are learning to speak, communicate, and explore the world, so undetected hearing loss creates deficits in language skills and the average cognitive markers for childhood development.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics "Hearing loss must be diagnosed as soon as possible, so that your child isn’t delayed in learning language—a process that begins the day she is born." In addition to knowing the signs of childhood hearing loss, People Hearing Better has provided answers to some questions parents might have about audiological testing and the results of testing.
What test will my child need to undergo to diagnose hearing loss? (Test given depends on a child’s age. Below are a few examples.)
•Behavioral Hearing Test—Pediatric patient is asked to respond to auditory stimulation. (Not appropriate for all ages.)
•Auditory Brainstem Response Testing—Comfortable earphones placed on the ears emitting a sound picked up by delicate equipment that measures how a child’s brain responds.
•Central Auditory Processing Evaluation—A series of tests designed to determine if a child has a problem with discerning certain sounds.
•Otoacoustic Emissions—A soft sponge earphone is placed in the ear canal to measure the presence or absence of typical “echo” responses to sound.
Isn't screening for hearing loss in infants mandatory?
•Recently 38 states have ordered mandatory testing of newborns for hearing loss, but less than half of the children receive the recommended follow-up treatment; treating childhood hearing loss early helps children with hearing loss to progress socially, emotionally, and cognitively at normal rates.
•It is essential for parents to test newborns and continue to have children tested for hearing loss annually as incidents are on the rise and though hearing loss in newborns is the number one birth defect, it is not the only time childhood hearing loss can happen.
Is it possible my child developed hearing loss after birth?
•Late onset or progressive childhood hearing loss can happen after the initial testing at birth, so too can noise induced hearing loss (NIHL). That is why it is essential for parents to have their children tested annually for hearing loss by a certified hearing health professional.
Could my child’s hearing loss be caused by an ear infection? (The cause of hearing loss needs to be determined by a hearing health professional.)
•It is not uncommon for hearing loss to be caused by chronic ear infections. This type of hearing loss may be mild to severe, permanent or temporary, but this in and of itself might not be the only reason for your child’s hearing loss.
•Hearing loss is varied and can have many causes including genetics, injury, and disease.
Is it important to treat childhood hearing loss that's been diagnosed as occurring only in one ear?
•It is important to treat all forms of hearing loss, including unilateral hearing loss. Studies have shown unilateral hearing loss affects a child’s cognitive, social, and emotional development at nearly the same rate as bilateral hearing loss.
Is my child too young for hearing aids?
•Typically the earlier the intervention for hearing loss the better.
•Hearing aids have been fitted on children as young as three months old.
•A professional audiologists or ENT will use proven formulas and sophisticated equipment to optimally fit hearing aids for ideal comfort and function.
What happens if my child has hearing loss?
• Find a good audiologist or ENT. He or she will do everything to determine and offer you the best treatment for your child’s hearing loss. Options include amplifying sound through hearing aids, appropriate surgical intervention, or in some cases a cochlear implant may be considered. It's good to remember that with proper and early intervention, children with hearing loss can grow up to be as successful and happy as they would have been without the hearing loss.