Hearing loss can lead to delays in your child’s ability to make sounds, learn to speak, and communicate effectively. In the following article, Dr. Behar will provide an overview of hearing testing in children, including why hearing testing is important, the types of tests available, and suggestions on what to look for if you are concerned about your child’s hearing.
Why is Hearing Testing Important for Children?
Proper hearing is an essential skill needed for proper speech and language development. Children develop speech, language, and hearing skills at different ages. Monitoring your child’s ability to hear is an important part of your growing child’s health. Delay in the diagnosis of hearing loss can lead to delays in your child’s ability to make sounds, speech and communication skills and learning. Early diagnosis allows prompt treatment.
How common is hearing loss in children?
According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, 3 million children under the age of 18 have some hearing loss, including 4 out of every 1,000 newborns.
Your newborn baby most likely had a hearing screening before they left the hospital; however, problems can still occur shortly after infancy or later in childhood. Most commonly persistent middle ear fluid or infections can lead to hearing loss during the important years for hearing and speech development. Other genetic causes (family history of hearing loss, genetic disorders), exposure to loud noise (both constant and single exposure, ear bed use), wax impactions, trauma, and certain medications can also cause hearing loss.
Which child is at risk?
If your child has any of the following risk factors, you should consider having your child tested for hearing loss:
- Born early (premature birth)
- Spent more than 5 days in neonatal intensive care
- Craniofacial abnormalities (the head, neck, or ears are shaped differently)
- Exposure to infection in the womb
- Meningitis or history of head trauma
- Family history of childhood hearing loss
- Family history of certain hereditary or congenital syndromes such as neurofibromatosis, osteopetrosis, and Usher syndrome
Signs of hearing loss
Even if your child has no risk factors, you should be watchful of hearing problems. You may notice the following signs of hearing loss in your baby:
- Does not notice loud noises
- Does not turn head when called by name
- After 6 months, does not turn toward sounds
- No babbling by the time the infant is 9 months old
- By 12 months, does not say single words
- No words spoken by age 18 to 24 months
- Doesn’t follow simple commands by age 2
- No response to sound at any age
Repeated ear infections, which are common in young children, can also delay language development. So even if your baby had normal hearing exams, be alert for the above symptoms.
When to Test
Your child should have their hearing tested before they start school, but if you suspect your child is not hearing well before then, you should consider scheduling a hearing evaluation.
You should take your child to a Pediatric ENT if he or she:
- Talks too loudly
- Watches television or listens to music at an abnormally high volume
- Complains he cannot hear the teacher and his grades suffer
- Has delayed or unclear speech
- Has trouble following directions or seems to daydream frequently
- Complains of ringing, whooshing, or other sounds in his ears
There are a number of reasons why your child may develop hearing loss. The problems are often temporary and can be resolved with medical treatment or surgery. Other times the problem is more severe and results in permanent hearing loss. Regardless, it’s important to have the issue addressed by a hearing healthcare professional as soon as you notice a potential problem. Hearing loss can result in delays in speech and language development and cause learning delays as well as social and behavioral issues. Early intervention is the key to healthy hearing.
Call Pediatric ENT Associates at 716-362-9730 to schedule a testing evaluation for your child. The caring professionals at Pediatric ENT Associates will evaluate your child, get your child’s hearing tested, and design a treatment plan that is right for you!