Pediatric Hearing Loss
Pediatric hearing evaluations are extremely important. Throughout early childhood, a child is “screened” at birth, during wellness visits with their pediatrician, and at school. A screening is a basic test to determine if they are hearing at levels that are considered within normal limits for their age and development. If they do not pass a screening, it is crucial that they follow up with an audiologist for more comprehensive testing to determine where their hearing levels are.
Childhood hearing loss can have a medical component due to fluid and/or pressure behind the ear drum, or it can be a permanent hearing loss that needs to be treated with proper amplification. According to the CDC, childhood hearing loss effects about five per one thousand children. Those with non-permanent hearing loss are evaluated and often referred to ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist for medical intervention for fluid behind the eardrum, ear infections, or sinus/allergy issues. After proper medical treatment, their hearing ideally returns to normal hearing levels. For a child with permanent hearing loss, early intervention with proper amplification is imperative. The sooner amplification is provided, adaption and development for appropriate speech and language can be achieved.
Causes of permanent hearing loss can include genetic factors, congenital disabilities or syndromes associated with childhood hearing loss, infections during pregnancy, complications during pregnancy or birth, ototoxic medication, congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV), extremely low birth weight or pre-mature babies, and many more.
It is important for developmental purposes that a child to be able to hear and understand appropriately. If a child has an untreated hearing loss, they risk having speech and language delays, fall behind in academic courses at school, engaging with educational content at appropriate levels, and struggling with social interaction amongst peers and adults. Early intervention is imperative for children to reach their full potential.
If you think that your child may have hearing difficulties or struggles with understanding, speak with their pediatrician to request a hearing screening or referral to an audiologist as soon as possible. If your child refers, or fails, a screening at a pediatrician or school, always schedule a full hearing evaluation as soon as possible by an audiologist. Once hearing loss is identified, it is important to discuss all treatment and intervention options available to determine what is best for your child.
Signs of hearing difficulty in babies/toddlers <18 months
- Does not startle at loud, unexpected, sounds. Do keep in mind that this response can fatigue if expected or repeated multiple times.
- Not turning head to localize sound from 6-months of age
- Not using single words by one-year of age
- Parental concerns regarding hearing or responding to sound
Signs of hearing difficulty in children >18 months
- Speech Delay
- Unclear speech or babble
- Difficulty following directions
- Concerns around attention to or ignoring sounds
- Often says “huh?” or “what?”
- TV, tablet, or game turned up at high volumes
- Misunderstanding in conversations or requests
Treatments and Interventions
- Conductive Loss related to the outer or middle ear
- Medical interventions
- Surgery (Tubes, adenoids, tonsils, etc.)
- Permanent Loss
- Amplification if chosen
- Hearing Aids
- Cochlear Implants
- Bone Anchored Devices
- Family and School Support