Does your baby have hearing loss?

By Drum Digital
23 May 2014

The early detection of hearing loss in children is crucial because, if left untreated, it could hamper their speech and language development as well as their learning ability. We give you some tips on determining whether your baby is struggling to hear.

The early detection of hearing loss in children is crucial because, if left untreated, it could hamper their speech and language development as well as their learning ability. Often the loss of hearing in children can also lead to difficulty communicating with others and social isolation, leaving your little one bewildered and feeling alone.

When should moms look for signs of hearing loss?

Studies have shown infants are able to recognise familiar voices even before they’re born and a mom expects her newborn to react to her voice, move their eyes and head in the direction of sounds and perhaps get startled at loud noises such as a door banging. Hema Thakor from hearing aid manufacturer Oticon South Africa says if your baby shows none of these signs, it would be prudent to have their hearing checked.

“The gap between the vocabulary of a child with normal hearing and one with hearing loss widens with age,” says Thakor. “Without intervention, children with hearing loss may struggle to catch up and therefore it is important to act early if you suspect your child has a hearing loss. The earlier the problem is identified and intervention begun, the less profound the ultimate impact will be.”

How do you confirm hearing loss?

Mild hearing loss is often not picked up as it’s easy to miss that a child can’t hear soft sounds.  It normally only comes to light once the child starts talking, between the ages of one and one-and-a-half years of age. A delay in their language development is an indicator. Sometimes hearing loss only becomes evident when a child struggles to hear well at school.

Thakor explains it’s often difficult for parents to confirm a child’s hearing loss. “It can be quite a traumatic discovery and many parents spend some time in a state of denial, because they find it too painful to accept. This is a perfectly normal reaction, but for the sake of your child it is important to contact an audiologist and to have your child’s hearing tested as soon as possible.”

A child’s hearing can be tested as early as the day they’re born. In fact, the majority of medical facilities in the private sector offer newborn hearing screening programmes that will test the child’s hearing before they’re discharged.

How do hearing tests work?

For infants, the aim is to test whether the ear is functioning correctly by objectively assessing the outer, middle and inner ear (cochlear). This means the infant doesn’t have to respond to the test, the equipment determines the result. Tests take one to three minutes to perform and have the same sensation as simply putting a finger in the infant’s ear. If hearing loss is suspected, the audiologist is likely to repeat the test a few times to make sure the results are accurate.

How can hearing loss be treated?

Thakor says there are various treatment options available. “Speak to your doctor or audiologist about optimising the hearing that your child has, to develop his or her speech and language. This could result in your child being fitted with a hearing aid or cochlear implant. However, your audiologist will be best equipped to advise which is better suited to your child.”

Get help

“Remember that the road to hearing is often thwarted with emotional distress, so don’t embark upon the process alone; even parents need support,” says Thakor.

Go to oticon.co.za for more information about hearing loss and possible treatments.

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