Every new parent hopes and prays its infant is healthy. But while some aspects of their health can be measured and assessed, other physical elements are not so easy, such as the child’s hearing. Signs that a hearing problem may exist in your infant may not be so easy to gauge at first, but there will be signs that appear in time that will help you understand whether their hearing is normal, or needs to be checked out by a ENT specialist.
Hearing problems also occur in younger children, not just infants. In time, certain factors may occur that demonstrate that a hearing problem exists. Regular screening and testing should be scheduled by the parent, just as they would a physical. This is not done out of fear, but simply just to be sure. If something is wrong with your child’s hearing, you will want to know as soon as possible in hopes of stopping any further damage from occurring, or, hopefully, find a solution to whatever is causing the hearing loss.
Why Test a Child’s Hearing?
Even from the womb the child’s hearing is developing. Studies have shown that babies in the womb respond to music, the sounds of their parents’ voices, and other audio stimuli. This hearing allows them to start connecting even before birth, and it is educational for them in a non-cognitive way. Some people have erroneously thought that children do not need to have their hearing tested before the age of 5. This is a myth. New technology allows for the testing of an infant’s hearing ability within a few hours of birth. In fact, some states mandate that a child not be allowed to leave the hospital until their hearing has been checked.
Because a baby and young child do not know what they don’t know or need to know, they depend on hearing to help them cognitively process the world around them. They learn just as much by sounds as they do visual stimuli and touch. If a child is not tested early on, they’re ability to process the world around them and relate will be hampered, and their speech will be stunted. If hearing loss or problems are not detected by the age of 3, it is possible they may suffer permanent hearing loss or he ability to learn properly.
The child does not know that they are not hearing properly, and may not be able to communicate this to their parents or siblings. The child may be mistakenly labeled a slow learner, one with a low IQ, or be dumb. This adds horrible stress to the child, and affects them not only academically and intellectually, but has tremendously adverse social ramifications as well.
However, early detection may give opportunity for the child to function at peak capacity in all phases of their lives.
Causes, Risk Factors, and Signs of Hearing Loss
There are many causes, risk factors, and signs of hearing loss. The following are the most common. If your child falls into ny of these categories, then it is essential that their hearing be tested regularly.
- Meningitis, measles, and cytomegalovirus are infectious diseases that cause hearing loss. If your child has suffered one of these, then have their hearing checked regularly
- Family history of hearing loss
- Delayed speech and response to verbal commands
- Poor performance in school
- Frequent ear infections
- Down Syndrome, Alport Syndrome, and Crouze Syndrome can cause hearing loss and problems
- Some antibiotics and medical therapies, such as a chemotherapy, can cause hearing loss in your child
- Premature birth, or low birth rate (under 2lbs.)
- Severe jaundice after birth
- Some maternal illnesses may cause hearing problems in the baby, such as German Measles
- Being on a breathing machine for first ten days after birth
- Low Apgar score that is used to determine overall health of the newborn
- Wax buildup
What to do if Hearing Loss is detected in Your Child
Obviously you as their parent will want to find ways and solutions to optimize their hearing ability. This can be accomplished a few ways. Visit your local ear, nose, and throat specialist who has an audiologist ready and able to assist you in not only testing your child, but also has the ability to fit them with the best, most proper hearing devices to help them achieve maximum hearing capability.
Conventional hearing aids may be used to assist them with hearing. There are devices even for infants. Again, it cannot be stressed enough that your child should be tested and then fitted with a hearing aid as soon as possible if a problem exists.
An FM system may be a better choice for your infant or young child. The FM system allows your child to hear better above background noise. The speaker, who could be a parent, sibling, or teacher), would wear a microphone and FM (type of radio signal) transmitter that broadcasts their speech to the receiver in your child’s ears. This can be done as far away as 100’.
Cochlear implants have been developed for those kids with severe hearing problems that a traditional hearing aid or FM transmitter cannot help as effectively. This device is implanted surgically. A wire containing numerous electrodes is fed into the cochlea. A magnetic receiver is implanted in the mastoid bone just behind the ear. This couples to an externally-worn receiver/simulator that provides a signal to the electrode array in the cochlea. Infants who are at least 12 months old and have acute hearing loss who have not made sufficient progress with conventional hearing aids are considered candidates for cochlear implants. In some cases (as when meningitis is the cause of deafness), younger infants may be candidates for a cochlear implant.
Financial Assistance for Hearing Aids
The obvious first place to check on financial covering for your child’s hearing testing and hearing aids should be your insurance. If your insurance does not cover it, or you do not have any, then you should look to fund it yourself. If this is not feasible, then there are a number of options you have to locate resources that may assist you in attaining the hearing aids needed for your child.
- Some states will pay for this through Medicaid
- State vocation and rehabilitation agencies
- The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act has provisions for covering hearing aid cost and hearing test for children
- The Military Audiology Association may be of assistance to military families in need
- State telephone programs may be able to provide special telephones for the hearing impaired
- Hearing aid banks exist – check with your state, or search the internet for one in your area
It is never too early to have your infant or young child’s hearing tested. In doing so, you may keep them from intellectual, social, and physical problems. If you need assistance in attaining the proper hearing aid for your child, it exists. Listen to your child.
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