hearing loss

Hearing Loss: Early Diagnosis And Treatment

Hearing loss is the most frequently diagnosed disability in the United States, according to the Cleveland Clinic. More than 12,000 babies are born with hearing loss every year in the U.S. The ability to hear is a critical factor in cognitive, emotional and social development. Hearing is one of the senses through which a child learns about the world. Even a mild hearing loss can affect a child’s ability to develop spoken language and speech properly. The good news is that if hearing loss is diagnosed early and the child receives appropriate support, it can help reduce the likelihood of developmental problems due to hearing loss.  

What Causes Hearing Loss in Children?

Hearing loss can be caused by a variety of factors including:

  • Genetics (An estimated 50% of all incidents of congenital hearing loss in children are genetic in nature)
  • Abnormal development of the cochlea or middle ear in the womb
  • Permanent damage to the eardrum or middle ear
  • Persistent Middle ear fluid in the ear
  • Certain infections or viruses such as Meningitis, Chickenpox, Measles, CMV.
  • Syndromes such as Down Syndrome, Treacher Collins Syndrome, Usher Syndrome, Crouzon Syndrome, Alport Syndrome
  • Ongoing exposure to extremely loud sounds
  • Tumors

What Are The Signs Of Hearing Loss?

Hearing loss can occur at any time. The following observations can suggest possible hearing loss in a child.

  • Fails to react when you call his or her name
  • Is not startled by loud noises
  • Does not turn to voices or sounds around him/her
  • Prefers the volume on the television to be loud
  • Speech is unclear or appears to be delayed when compared to   peers
  • Child is not meeting language milestones (first words emerging around 12 months, using at least 10-20 words by 18 months, etc..)
  • Appears to have attention or behavior problems
  • Does not follow simple directions

What Should I Do If My Child Shows Signs Of Hearing Loss?

Hearing loss presents a serious obstacle to your child’s social learning and educational success. Therefore, it is important that your child receives appropriate support and treatment as soon as possible. If your child shows any of the above signs of possible hearing loss, schedule an appointment with your child’s pediatrician immediately. If concerned, the doctor might then refer your child to an audiologist and/or otolaryngologist for an assessment to include a complete audiological evaluation. This will allow you to rule out hearing loss as a possible contributing factor to your child’s speech and language delays or lack of responsiveness.

What Are The Most Common Treatments For Hearing Loss In Children?

There are many treatments for hearing loss in children. Here are a few of the most common ones.

  • Hearing aids – There are a wide variety of hearing aid devices available for infants, children, and adults with hearing loss. Hearing aids are worn in the ear or behind the ear and are designed to amplify the sounds and make them louder.
  • Cochlear implants – If hearing aids do not appear to be helping your child access speech and language, then cochlear implants might be considered as an option. These are electronic devices surgically implanted and designed to stimulate the hair cells in the inner ear. The internal processor is coupled with an external processor that transmits the electrical sound to the inner ear allowing a person the ability to access sound.
  • Pressure Equalization Tubes (P.E. tubes) are often inserted in the middle ear following multiple episodes of ear infections and often associated with middle ear fluid. (Rounds of antibiotics frequently precede P.E. tube insertion).

Therapy Services for Children with Hearing Loss

Another very important treatment for children with hearing loss is specialized therapy services to address auditory, speech and language deficits.  Auditory-Verbal Therapy intervention is considered to be a specialized treatment designed for infants, toddlers and children diagnosed with hearing loss. In order to pursue auditory-verbal therapy services,  a Listening and Spoken Language Specialist, Certified Auditory-Verbal Therapist (LSLS, Cert. AVT) would be recommended. LSLS, Cert AVT’s are typically speech/language pathologists, audiologists, and/or deaf educators who are highly trained in the field of hearing impairment and are certified to provide auditory-verbal therapy services designed to help a child with hearing loss develop his or her speech, language, and auditory skills.

Benefits of Auditory-Verbal Therapy services

Therapy services can help:

  • Improve auditory, speech and language skills
  • Enhance a child’s self-esteem
  • Encourage the full-time use of hearing aids and/or cochlear implant devices
  • Empower parents to expand a child’s auditory, speech and language skills throughout the day with carryover activities provided in each session
  • Provide a framework and direction for mainstreaming at the appropriate time depending on the child’s overall skills

Strategies For Parents

If you have recently learned of, or if you suspect that your child has a hearing loss, you might feel overwhelmed. For most parents, finding out about hearing loss can be unexpected and can be quite difficult to process and accept. However, there are many things that can be done to help manage the diagnosis.

  • Learn as much as possible about hearing loss – Educate yourself about your child’s hearing loss and keep up with the latest treatment and technology.  
  • Follow-through with therapy sessions and recommended treatment – For optimal progress, consistency is the key.  
  • Work closely with your child’s therapist and with his or her audiologist and otologist.
  • Join a support group – Connect with other parents of children with hearing loss. Parents with similar experiences may understand what you are going through and can help with advice and understanding.
  • Take advantage of resources that are available to children with hearing loss – You might ask teachers, doctors, and other professionals for any resources available.

Hearing-impaired children can live healthy, normal lives. The key is finding appropriate support and getting treatment early. Contact Bliss Speech and Hearing Services to find how we can help your child.

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