If you are a parent then you most likely are learning to pay attention to a lot of things all at once. Hearing loss affects 1-4 infants for every 1000 births. The sooner you can identify and treat your child’s hearing loss, the easier it is to identify how to help your child navigate their new world.
While we do not provide pediatric hearing services, we do want to bring awareness to pediatric hearing loss, as many of our patients are grandparents and parents to young children. Learn more about pediatric hearing loss below.
To be able to identify hearing loss in your child it is important to understand what your child will be able to hear and decipher in the different stages of their development.
When a baby is born, their hearing, though more sensitive, is similar to an adults. However the world is full of sounds they have never heard before and free of any associations with possible sources. For instance, your baby might be able to hear the sound of rushing water but not understand how this could be associated with a babbling brook or water flowing from the sink faucet.
Your child slowly makes connections between the source and the sound these are communication milestones in development. When learning your language they must hear the sounds repeated over and over to slowly associate the sounds with words, using their hearing to form the foundations of communication.
Observing Localization Ability
Localization in hearing is the ability to identify the source and direction of a sound and is one of the earliest auditory skills that your child will develop. The use of both ears (binaural hearing) helps us efficiently identify sources of sound.
If your child has hearing loss in one ear (unilateral hearing loss) this can cause problems with localization. By observing your child’s response to sounds, you can identify how efficiently they can localize sounds. When they are first born they will widen their eyes or “startle” when they hear a loud sound. As children are more able to turn their head you can start to test their localization ability.
At five to six months they should be able to turn their head towards a quiet sound behind them like a whisper or rattle. Your pediatrician will examine your child’s ears for these responses early on to assess your child’s hearing ability.
Speech and Language Development Milestones
Being able to understand where your child should be developmentally, can help you understand if your child has a problem hearing. At 9 months your child should demonstrate an understanding of simple words such as parental names followed by speech like babbling by 10 months.
At one year old your child should generally speak one or more words and by 18 months they should be able to understand simple phrases and a vocabulary of 20-50 words.
At two years your child’s vocabulary should consist of at least 150 words and creating short sentences. By three to five years your child should be speaking to express questions, share information, express their wants and emotions. Their vocabulary should range from 1000 to 2000 words.
Every child develops slightly differently, but if you witness your child not meeting some of these milestones then there might be an issue with hearing ability.
How to Spot Hearing Loss In Your Child
As your child ages there will be other clues that could alert you of a hearing disability. Many times school age children who struggle in class may actually have a slight hearing loss causing learning disadvantages. Some of the most common sounds that your child has an issue with include: missing audio cues, not hearing their name called regardless of noise level or not reacting to voices over the telephone.
Causes of Childhood Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can be present at birth often due to genetic factors and disease. It can also be acquired after birth due ear infections, disease or injury, such as an impact to the head. Your pediatrician can help you identify the cause of your child’s hearing loss.
Treating Your Child’s Hearing Loss
While it is currently not possible to reverse hearing loss, it can be treated effectively with the use of hearing aids. Hearing aids amplify and send it to your child’s ear so they can hear the sounds they are missing. With hearing aids your child can communicate easier with friends and succeed better in class.