What You Need to Know about Hearing Loss in Children
Hearing loss in children can occur as a result of a variety of injuries and illnesses as well as genetic factors and can cause lifelong problems with language and communication.
Hearing develops early in foetal development and is normally fully functioning at birth. The delicate structures in the human ear are easily damaged. This is especially true for children. As the structures of the ear grow and change, their ability to hear and understand sounds develops. That’s why it’s so important to understand some of the basics about the ears, as well as warning signs of any problems.
Maintaining good ear health and providing effective treatment for infections and injuries that cause hearing loss in children is important. Early detection is key to positive outcomes.
Quick Guide to Hearing Development and Hearing Loss in Children
Children’s Developmental Stages and Hearing Abilities
In NSW, Australia, all babies born in hospitals are given a hearing test which detects moderate to profound hearing loss. This allows for early identification and treatment of any problems. If your child has normal hearing, it will develop on a predictable path. If you notice a delay or a missed step in this development, book your child for a hearing test as soon as possible.
The Stages of Hearing Development are:
- Between birth and eight weeks of age, your child will notice and be startled by sudden noises.
- Between 6 and 12 months of age, your child will turn towards quieter noises, including voices.
- When your child is between 18 and 24 months of age she or he will be able to understand and respond to simple words and sentences and produce some simple words.
- Between 2 ½ years old and 3 ½ years old your child should be speaking well and in sentences. She or he should also be able to understand a range of sentences without visual cues.
Damage or Illness and the Ear
The ear is a delicate instrument. As adults, we can identify damage or pain and ask for treatment, but children often don’t have the capacity to do this. That’s why parents have to be vigilant and watch for signs of pain or hearing loss.
Statistics indicate that 1.4 babies out of every thousand born have hearing loss. And this only increases with age. The US Centre for Disease Control estimates that about 5 out of a thousand children have a hearing loss.
Causes of Hearing Loss in Children
There are several different causes of hearing loss in children including genetics, middle ear infections, or other illnesses or injuries. Parents need to be aware and act quickly if they notice any warning signs and get professional support.
Signs of Hearing Loss in Children
Not every child is the same, and typical hearing development may have slight variations. Talking with an audiologist can be very helpful if you are suspicious that your child is not hearing appropriately.
The signs of hearing loss in children can vary depending on the age. For babies and toddlers, the best indicator is a missed developmental step as described above. However, there are a variety of signs of hearing loss in older children, including the following:
- Unusual voice or speech patterns compared to other children the same age
- General speech development delays
- Difficulty understanding others, misunderstanding or just not responding to sounds
- Complaining of earaches or noises
- Putting the television volume up too high
- Watching others to copy their reactions when people talk
- Staring intently at people’s mouths when they talk, trying to read their lips
- Falling behind academically
Seek Advice about Treatment Options for Hearing Loss in Children
Treatment for hearing loss in children depends on the cause of the problem. The best way to know is by contacting your closest hearing centre to schedule a hearing test. If you have concerns about your child’s hearing, make an appointment with us today.
Early diagnosis is the key to provide the right support and positive outcomes.