Hearing Loss in Children
For a child, hearing and speech are essential tools of learning, playing and developing social skills. Children learn to communicate by imitating the sounds they hear. If they have a hearing loss that is undetected and untreated, they can miss much of the speech and language around them. This results in delayed speech/language development, social problems and academic difficulties.
Many things can cause hearing loss in a child. Hearing loss at birth is called congenital hearing loss. Hearing loss that happens after birth is called acquired hearing loss. Congenital hearing loss can be caused by genetic factors, but it also can be caused by other things, like an infection during pregnancy, prematurity, injury at birth, and other health conditions. Acquired hearing loss can result from many things, including frequent ear infections, viral and bacterial infections like meningitis or the measles, a head injury, and exposure to very loud noises.
Results of Child Hearing Loss
- Impaired speech and language development
- Falling behind peers by up to four grade levels
- Lack of motivation and achievement at school
- Feeling isolated or different than their friends
- Lack of self-esteem and confidence
Although the vast majority of newborns in the United States receive a hearing screening before discharge from the hospital, hearing loss can occur at any time, and it may not be evident immediately. Severe or profound hearing loss may be obvious because the child may not respond to sound. But noticing milder forms of hearing loss—including hearing loss in only one ear—can be more difficult. That is why regular hearing evaluations as children grow and mature is so important.
Because children learn to speak by listening, children with unidentified hearing loss often have trouble learning to speak, and they experience delays in their language and speech development. For this reason, it is important to pay careful attention to causes of hearing loss in children, and how quickly and well your child is learning to speak and understand language when compared to other children of the same age. If something doesn’t seem right, ask your doctor. What causes hearing loss in children is not always immediately evident.
Recognize the signs
- Watching TV at an excessive volume
- Speech or language delays
- Complaints of ear aches, ear pain, or noises in his/her head
- Slower academic development than peers
- Inappropriate responses to questions
- Speaks differently than other children in their age group
- Not responding to voices over the telephone or continually switching ears when on the phone
- Inappropriate, delayed, or lack of response to soft and moderate-level sounds or spoken language when distractions are minimal
Hearing loss, in varying degrees, affects two in every 100 children under the age of 18. Fortunately, there are very few hearing losses that cannot be helped with modern technology. The most effective treatment is achieved through early intervention. Early diagnosis, early fitting of hearing aids, and an early start on special education programs can help maximize a child's hearing. This will give your child the best chances for successful speech and language development.