Did you know that three out of 1,000 babies are born with a hearing impairment and six out of 100 school-age kids develop some kind of hearing loss? Hearing loss or hearing impairment happens when there is a problem with one or more parts of the ear (or ears) and it prevents a person from hearing properly. Hearing loss may affect one or both ears, and a person may be able to hear some sounds or nothing at all.
Your child’s most important learning takes place between birth and 4 years of age. The development of your baby’s speech, language and communication abilities is closely linked to normal hearing. Any disruption of the normal hearing process will affect your baby’s ability to communicate and therefore to learn. Many states, including Ohio, mandate hearing screenings be performed on all newborns at birth so hearing loss can be identified early. If a hearing loss is identified and rehabilitation is started early, a child has a better chance of developing normal speech and language. This should lead to better success in school and in learning job skills in the future.
TYPES OF HEARING LOSS:
A baby or child can have a hearing loss for any number of reasons including:
Another factor that is becoming a more prevalent reason for hearing loss or hearing damage in our society is exposure to loud noises. About 12.5 percent of American kids between the ages of 6 to 19 show symptoms of hearing loss caused by exposure to loud noise. Loud noise affects hearing by damaging the tiny hair cells in the ear. Brief exposure to loud noise causes temporary hearing loss, but longer exposure or extremely loud noises cause permanent hearing loss. Even though our society as a whole is getting noisier, it’s still primarily loud music that’s causing hearing loss in kids. Encourage teens to turn down the music. If they listen to their music through headphones or earbuds, nobody else should be able to hear the music. Buy them earplugs to wear at places where there will be really loud music, like rock concerts. Set a good example by turning down the volume at home and in the car.
WARNING SIGNS OF HEARING LOSS
Signs to watch for in babies:
Warning signs in kids preschool age and older:
If your son exhibits any of the above warning signs, he should be tested by a pediatric audiologist. Pediatric audiologists have special expertise in testing hearing in newborns, babies, toddlers and children. Never allow your concerns about hearing to be pushed aside because your child is deemed “too young.” Depending on his age, there are several options available for hearing testing. Newborns are assessed with tests that measure responses from the inner ear or from the hearing nerve while they are sleeping. Hearing can be tested for infants and children in a special soundproof room by watching for reactions to different sounds.Types of responses vary depending on how old a baby or child is, but a pediatric audiologist will know what specific behaviors to look for. The audiologist may teach a preschool age child to drop a toy or play a game when he hears a sound. There are also other tests that use special instruments to measure an infant’s or child’s responses to sounds. If it is determined that your daughter has a hearing loss, treatment will be recommended.
Treatment options will depend on your son’s type of hearing loss, how severe it is and his other needs. Kids with conductive hearing loss can be treated with medication or an operation to insert tubes, and most will be able to hear normally again. If a sensorineural hearing loss is present in both ears, a hearing aid for each ear may be recommended. If your child has lost hearing in only one ear, he may be fitted with either a hearing aid for that ear, or an assistive listening device such as a frequency modulation, or FM, system. FM systems emphasize voices by making them louder and can help kids hear better in crowded or noisy classrooms. If your daughter can’t hear or understand words even with the help of hearing aids, then a cochlear implant may be appropriate. This tiny piece of electronic equipment is put into the cochlea during an operation. It uses electrical signals to stimulate delivery of signals from the cochlea to the hearing nerve. It takes over the job of the damaged or destroyed hair cells in the cochlea by working directly with the hearing nerve.
LEARNING TO COMMUNICATE
Now that your child’s hearing loss has been identified, you have to figure out how to help her learn to communicate in a hearing world. Lucky for you there are plenty of options! Because there are so many hearing impaired people in our world today, many modern devices have been created to make it easier to help them communicate. People with severe hearing loss can communicate on the phone by using a special communication device called the TDD. The TDD allows the conversation to be typed out instead of spoken. The messages appear on a special screen or on a printout. Closed-captioned TV shows and DVDs allow a person to see the text of what is being said because the words scroll across the bottom of the screen.
Depending on the severity of your child’s hearing impairment, many schooling options are available. Most kids will be able to be mainstreamed with regular hearing classes. Arrangements may need to be made for front row seating so the child can read the teacher’s lips or a sign language interpreter may be helpful. Schools for only the hearing impaired are available in some areas. Cities with larger school systems usually offer special classes for hearing impaired kids in one or more buildings.
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