Unlike an adult, detecting hearing loss in children can be more challenging since a newborn or toddler does not yet possess the skills to effectively communicate. However, as many as three in one thousand children are born with some form of hearing loss, with many more children developing or being diagnosed with hearing losses in their development. The most identifiable impact on a child with hearing loss is missed milestones. A child with hearing loss may have delayed speech and language abilities. Their cognitive and social development may also be impaired as they struggle to interact effectively with the world around them.
However, with early intervention, the deficits the child with hearing loss may experience can be minimized. Follow-up with an experienced audiologist can identify the true nature and extent of the hearing loss, and when possible, can correct the problem before the child experiences delays in development. Hearing tests can be administered prior to the infant leaving the hospital, and can even be completed as the infant sleeps. Every child should be screened for hearing loss within the first six months of life, and risk factors for hearing loss addressed with parents.
Children with other disabilities such as cerebral palsy and Down syndrome often experience hearing loss, which contributes to their inability to learn and effectively communicate with those around them. It is even more critical that children with disabilities are screened early. By consulting an audiologist, intervention can be achieved at an earlier age, allowing for a more normalized childhood experience.
As a parent and caregiver, where do you go from this diagnosis? After finding and completing a full hearing test, the audiologist will define treatment options and goals for your child. The treatment plan may involve hearing aids, implants, and/or adapting communication to best suit the particular need of your child. Each child is different, and there are many treatment options available. The most important take away from this is that early and complete intervention is the best option for your child reaching their full potential both developmentally and socially. Hearing loss in all its forms is no longer a reason for isolation.
For more information about hearing loss in children the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website has a wealth of useful information: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/hearingloss/index.html