• How to Detect Hearing Loss in Infants and Children

    Posted on December 6, 2011 by in Children, Detection, Hearing Loss

    Children learn speech by imitating the sounds that they hear around them, and without the tools of hearing and speech many developmental milestones can be delayed and feel almost impossible. There is a myth circulating about children needing to be a certain age to have their hearing tested. Doesn’t my child have to be able to talk to accurately respond to a hearing test? Absolutely not. If you suspect that your child is hearing impaired, they can be tested as early as 4 or 5 months old with the appropriate techniques. Using a model based on human reflexes, doctors can administer hearing tests to even the smallest of babies; and as a parent with a concern about your child’s hearing you will want to know as soon as possible how you can help them to overcome these obstacles.

    Here are some warning signs that your infant or child may be hearing impaired:

    • Your baby can sleep through very loud noises, without stirring.
    • He or she doesn’t startle when they hear a loud, unexpected noise (like an ambulance siren).
    • Your baby doesn’t respond to your voice. Babies as young as 4 months old should begin to smile or coo in response to a familiar voice. By 9-15 months they should be able to detect different tones in your voice (and should respond to a warning or alarmed voice).
    • They don’t notice rattles or other noise-making toys.
    • They don’t make eye contact. Even at a very young age it is a natural response to make eye contact or smile when being spoken to.
    • Does your baby make different noises for different needs? If not, this could be a signal that they cannot differentiate.
    • By 9 months, your baby should be able to make connections between certain words and hand motions (ex: “bye-bye” with a wave).
    • By 15 months it is natural for a child to use his or her voice to attract attention, and by 24 months they should be able to put names to common objects.

    As you can see, many of the cues used to identify a child that may have a hearing problem are identical to those of a child with a developmental delay in speech. The only way to differentiate between these two serious concerns is to visit your audiologist. Your pediatrician can help you to detect whether or not your child is reaching the usual milestones for their age, and refer you to an audiologist that can administer the appropriate test. Using a test known as Visual Reinforcement Audiometry (VRA), it is possible to use lights as positive reinforcement for response to sound, and to “condition” even a very young child to look toward a new sound. This method is used most often in children under two and a half years old, and can be very effective in helping to determine a hearing problem from a speech delay.