How Can You Identify Hearing Loss in Kids?

Hearing loss is relatively prevalent in America. The NIH reports that hearing loss is detected at birth in 2 to 3 out of every 1,000 children in the country. Although this is a 0.2% to 0.3% chance, genetics isn’t the only factor related to hearing loss. Infections and trauma to the ears can also cause the condition. As such, about 1 out of 8 people in the country over 12 years old have hearing loss in both ears.

When unaddressed, kids with hearing loss can have lifelong difficulties in communication, speech, and social skills. A study from the University of Nebraska Medical Center also found that mild to severe hearing loss in children causes cognitive delays. This includes language function and working memory. Failure to develop these areas can affect a child’s opportunities in education, employment, and relationships when they’re not equipped with the necessary skills to participate in school or social settings.

If you think your child may have hearing loss, knowing what to pay attention to can help you make the necessary interventions as soon as possible. Here’s what you need to know.

What is hearing loss, and what causes it?

A person is considered to have hearing loss when they cannot hear at normal levels — less than 25 decibels — in both ears. For comparison, the normal speaking voice is measured at around 60 decibels, while a whisper is about 30 decibels. Hearing loss is also an umbrella term for several related conditions, with Maryville University explaining that hearing loss types include sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL), conductive hearing loss, and mixed hearing loss. SNHL is caused by damage to the structure of the auditory nerve of the inner ear. In children, this may be due to loud noises or genetics. Conductive hearing loss, on the other hand, is caused by blockages in the outer and middle ear instead of the inner ear. When conductive hearing loss compounds with SNHL, it can result in mixed hearing loss.

Aside from genetics, these types of hearing loss can be brought on by several factors. The WHO states that hearing loss in children can occur during the prenatal and perinatal periods and early childhood. Non-genetic causes include lack of oxygen during birth, low birth weight, chronic ear infections, collection of fluids in the ear, meningitis, and more. If your children have suffered from any of these conditions, they may develop auditory problems.

How can you spot signs of hearing loss in babies and young

You can often assess hearing loss in babies by paying attention to how they respond to sounds. One of the biggest signs is when they are consistently unstartled by loud and sudden noises. If a baby turns their head when you’re in view but doesn’t respond to your voice, it may be a sign that they have difficulty hearing you. A baby’s speech development can also signal hearing loss. If a baby is not yet babbling single syllables like “mama” by the time they turn a year old, they may have difficulty hearing.

Meanwhile, some signs you must watch out for in young children include delays in speech formation or unclear speech. Be alert to difficulties following instructions in class or at home, which may be mistaken as attitude problems. Children with difficulty hearing may also frequently ask you to repeat what you say. Additionally, they may turn the volume in their gadgets up too high.

How is hearing loss diagnosed and treated?

When your child exhibits consistent signs of hearing loss, it’s essential to consult a pediatrician as early as possible. They will administer a simple, painless hearing screening that assesses your child’s hearing sensitivity. If they deem it necessary, your doctor may require additional tests like physical exams to check for possible causes, like earwax or inflammation.

Some treatments for hearing loss include hearing aids to amplify sounds, cochlear implants that stimulate the auditory nerve, and surgeries to address structural malformations or infections.

How can you support a child with hearing loss?

As a parent, you can support your child by creating an inclusive environment at home. Make it easier for them to communicate by learning sign language and educate yourself by learning how other families help children with hearing loss. You can also work with school administrators or teachers to make changes in school for your child. These can be as simple as assigning your child’s seat to the front of the classroom to help them hear better or requesting that more visual aids be used for teaching.

Children with hearing loss can often feel isolated and frustrated too. Our article ‘SEL Resources You Need To Know About’ can provide you with social and emotional learning techniques to help your child cope with difficulties. This can help them improve self-management, social awareness, and responsible decision-making, making them better equipped to face challenges.

Hearing loss in a child can create obstacles in their development. When you know what to look for, you can support your child and provide them with the best treatments and support as soon as possible.

exclusively written for
by Rubee Jewel

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