Hearing loss happens when a child’s ears reduce their ability to detect sound. Hearing loss can affect one or both ears and ranges from mild to profound. Approximately 4 in every 1,000 children are born with hearing loss. Acquired hearing loss can be the result of head trauma, illness, exposure to loud noises, or certain medical treatments.
Even mild hearing loss can interfere with a child’s speech and language skills, and it is very important to be proactive in identifying early warning signs that may affect them down the road. The screening process starts at the very beginning of life. Newborn hearing screenings are administered at birth at every hospital. If the infant does not pass that initial screen, there is an indication there may be an issue that needs to be followed up with.
Children will get ear infections, it just an inevitable part of growing up. Often times fluid builds behind the eardrum, which can give them temporary hearing losses, which dissipate in time. Though not a major cause for concern, it can still interfere with this child’s ability to listen to their teacher in the classroom, and ultimately, affect their learning. When this becomes a concern, is when parents may notice constant ear infections that occur several times or more per year. Repeated infections can cause permanent type damage to the ear or contribute to other health issues such as Cholesteatoma, or a skin growth that can grow in the middle part of the ear and cause considerable damage. Older children will be able to tell you that their ears hurt. With infants, they may tug at their ears frequently because they can’t verbally tell that they are in pain.
One of the main warning signs for parents to look out for is certainly repeated trips to the pediatrician for ear infections, but there are other warning signs as well. You may find that when you call your child’s name, they may not respond. Or they hear you calling, but they can’t figure out where the sound is coming from and looking around the room for the source of the noise. If they’re really young and their speech and language aren’t developing or you do not see them hitting those milestones that they should be, it is important to have a hearing screen to ensure that the issues are not hearing related. If it is not found to be related to hearing, your child can be referred to a speech-language pathologist for further testings in speech and language development.
If you feel your child may be encountering hearing issues, talk with your primary care doctor, or pediatrician about your concerns. If necessary, they can give you a referral to an audiologist, like the trusted team at Audiology Center of St. Johns.