Does My Child Need a Hearing Evaluation?
The sooner a hearing problem is identified and treated, the less impact it will have on a child’s development. Current research indicates that if a hearing loss is identified and treated before six months of age, the child’s speech and language development can approximate those of normal hearing children. For this reason, most states have a newborn hearing screening program in hospitals aiming to identify those babies who may be in need of further hearing assessment.
Why a Hearing Evaluation Would be Needed
The consequences of hearing loss are far reaching – a child with a hearing loss is at risk to have speech- language disorders, poor academic performance, social-adjustment issues, and emotional problems. As hearing loss is an invisible disability and it is difficult to determine the extent of the hearing loss through behavioral testing before the child is six to nine months old, all babies should be tested within the first few weeks of life with an oto-acoustic emission screening instrument.
In a small percentage of children, the oto-acoustic emission screening results may indicate a false negative result or false positive result. In addition, some types of hearing loss may only become apparent when a child is older, or are caused by illness or a traumatic event during childhood. Therefore, it is important to keep the indicators for hearing loss in mind as your child grows older. Your child may have a hearing loss if he/she fails to:
- Startle to a loud noise
- Awaken to sounds
- Blink or widen eyes in response to loud sounds
From 3 to 4 months:
- Quiet to a mother’s voice
- Start looking for the source of sounds
From 6 to 9 months:
- Coo and gurgle with inflection
- Enjoy musical toys
From 12 to 15 months:
- Say first word
- Respond to “no”
- Follow simple requests
- Imitate some sounds
From 18-24 months:
- Start using two-word phrases
- Know some body parts
Types of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is classified based on the location of the disorder in the hearing system. There are three types of hearing loss:
- A conductive hearing loss occurs when there is a disruption in the flow of sound through the middle ear cavity and the tiny hearing bones in the middle ear. This type of hearing loss can often be surgically corrected.
- A sensorineural hearing loss occurs as a result of damage to the inner ear (cochlea) or damage to the nerve pathways connecting the ear to the brain. This type of hearing loss cannot be corrected with surgery.
- A mixed hearing loss occurs when there is both a conductive and a sensorineural hearing loss in the same ear.
The degree of hearing loss is classified with descriptive terms: mild, moderate, severe, and profound.
Causes of Hearing Loss
Many factors can contribute to the presence of a hearing loss, or place a child at risk to develop a hearing loss, such as:
- Family history of hearing loss in children
- The presence of a known syndrome of which hearing loss is part of the symptoms
- Prolonged stay (longer than five days) in the neonatal intensive care unit, especially if your child was ventilated, treated with medication that is known to cause hearing loss, or had jaundice that necessitated a blood transfusion
- Infectious diseases, such as meningitis
- Head trauma
- Recurrent middle-ear infection for at least three months
If you feel concerned about your child’s hearing abilities, find an audiologist in your area for a comprehensive hearing evaluation.