All About Pediatric Hearing Loss
While hearing loss can occur at any age, hearing difficulties at birth or that develop during infancy and toddler years can have serious consequences. Just as each child is unique, so is a child’s hearing loss. It is helpful to understand how the ear works, how hearing loss is diagnosed (with degrees and types of hearing loss), and what treatment options are appropriate for your child’s hearing.
Sound enters through the ears, but is processed and understood by the brain. Children with hearing loss have the same listening and understanding potential as those with normal hearing. However, without proper diagnoses and treatment, these children can experience difficulties in the development of normal speech and language development – vocabulary, grammar, word order, idiomatic expressions, and other aspects of verbal communications.
Prevalence of Hearing Loss in Children
Between one and six of every 1,000 children in the United States may be born with a severe to profound hearing loss, which fall into three categories:
Conductive Hearing Loss
May indicate an abnormality in the structure of the outer ear canal, the middle ear, or fluid in the middle ear that interferes with sound transfer.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
A type of impairment caused by abnormalities of the inner ear or the nerves that carry sound impulses from the inner ear to the brain. While most severe sensorineural hearing loss is genetic, it can also be caused by an infectious illness.
Mixed Hearing Loss
A combination of conductive and sensorineural, as described above.
Hearing loss of any kind is further divided into degrees:
- Mild – A child hears some speech.
- Moderate – A child hears almost no speech.
- Severe – A child hears no speech at normal level.
- Profound – a child hears no speech at any level.
Understanding Signs of Hearing Loss
If can be difficult to know if your child has hearing loss, especially in infancy. Here are some signs:
Infant or Toddler:
- No reaction to loud noises or voices, or nears some sounds and not others
- Does not notice you until he/she sees you
- Has stopped babbling or experimenting with making sounds, other than those that he/she can feel (such as gurgling or vibrating noises)
- Babbling does not progress to understandable speech, such as single words, by 12-15 months
- Has trouble with balance when sitting or walking
- Does not follow or understand simple commands
- Is easily frustrated or has communications breakdowns
- Depends heavily on lip-reading
- Is falling behind with speech and communications skills
- Is easily exhausted from constant concentration just to understand speech
Testing and Treatment
A person of any age can be given a hearing test, even newborns. While many doctors (especially ENTs) can test and treat for fluid in the middle ear, which is a common cause of childhood hearing loss, actual levels and degrees of hearing should be tested by an audiologist. The audiologist will record testing data onto an audiogram, which is a visual illustration of your child’s hearing loss, measured in hertz (Hz) for pitch and frequency, and decibels (dB) for loudness, for both ears.
Upon diagnoses of hearing loss, your child will be referred to an Otologist, Otolaryngologist, or Pediatric Otolaryngologist (also known as an ENT physician). The initial role of this physician is to determine the specific nature or cause of the hearing loss, whether it is medically or surgically treatable, and, if appropriate, provide clearance for hearing aid fitting.
No single treatment or intervention is the answer for every child or family. Treatment and intervention options include:
- Early detection, intervention and special education, available through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, starting as early as 3 months
- Hearing Aids
- Cochlear Implants – for severe to profound hearing loss
- Bone-anchored hearing aids
- Other assistive devices, such as an FM system and captioning
- Medical and Surgical procedures
- Speech Therapy
With proper diagnoses and treatment, even children with severe hearing impairment can grow to be full participants in the world around them.
If you are concerned about your child's hearing, contact us at Arizona Balance and Hearing Aids.
Arizona Balance and Hearing Aids
333 W Thomas Rd. Suite 208a
Phoenix, AZ 85013