Being able to hear is a very important part of a child’s development, and hearing loss is something you want to detect early. February is Kids ENT Health Month, so let’s talk about pediatric hearing loss.
Three million children under the age of 18 have some hearing loss, including four out of every 1,000 newborns, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology. Hearing loss can lead to speech and language development delays, so it is important your child’s hearing be tested.
What causes hearing loss?
A child may have hearing loss if they:
- Weighed less than 3 ½ pounds at birth.
- Were jaundiced at birth and had a blood transfusion.
- Were in the neonatal intensive care unit for more than five days.
- Received antibiotics through a needle.
- Had meningitis.
- Had a severe head injury or skull fracture.
- Had recurring ear infections with fluid in the ears for more than three months.
Children may also have hearing loss if their mother drank alcohol or had German measles, a viral infection, or the flu while pregnant. A family history of early hearing loss can also be an indicator.
What are signs my child might have hearing loss?
If you think your baby might have hearing loss, look for the following signs:
- They don’t react to unexpected loud noises.
- They don’t imitate sounds.
- They don’t turn their head in the direction of your voice.
- They don’t babble, or babbling has stopped.
- By 12 months of age they don’t understand simple phrases just by listening.
Young children might have hearing loss if they don’t:
- React to soft sounds.
- Respond to first calls.
- Talk like children of a similar age.
- Show consistent growth in using or understanding words.
What happens when I bring my child to the doctor?
CEENTA offers a number of hearing tests for young children. If a test identifies hearing loss, your child may have several options to address their hearing loss. In some cases, an ENT doctor may also see if your child’s hearing loss can be treated through medical or surgical treatment like ear tube surgery.
Help through BEGINNINGS
If a child is deaf or hard of hearing, they will be referred to BEGINNINGS. BEGINNINGS is a North Carolina-based organization that provides emotional support and information to help families. They explain medical terms to parents, talk with the schools about educating hard-of-hearing children, and more.
Several of CEENTA’s audiology externs have gone on site visits with BEGINNINGS. Externs Nicole Richardson and Tracey Aloisio said these visits have taught them to better explain hearing loss to patients of all ages.
“Parents should know the workers at BEGINNINGS are here to work with the families,” Ms. Richardson said. “Learning their child has hearing loss can be overwhelming and the program is designed to help them in any way they can.
“It is important to realize that delivering news to a parent that their child has hearing loss can be quite hard to understand,” Ms. Aloisio said. “This program is a tremendous resource for information, support, and guidance, even if they only have that initial consultation.”