Causes and Signs of Hearing Loss in Children
Many factors can contribute to hearing difficulty for a child. A family history of hearing loss, infectious diseases like meningitis or measles, and certain medical treatments are all potential causes.
In audiology, the criteria used for “normal hearing” in children is stricter than for adults. Usually, adults can “fill in the blanks” but children, with their developing brains, may not be as mentally flexible. A child may “hear” or be aware of sounds, but be unable to process them fully. Even a relatively small loss in hearing ability can prove problematic for understanding and language learning.
A hearing evaluation should be of particular priority for children who experience any of the following red flags for hearing loss:
- Speech delay
- Frequent or recurrent ear infections
- Poor school performance
- Diagnosis of a learning disability or other learning disorder
Assessing Hearing Loss in Children
Pediatric Hearing Testing for Newborns
There are two primary methods for screening a newborn’s hearing:
Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) – Test uses a small, flexible tip which is inserted into the baby’s ear. This test can be completed within a few minutes while the baby sleeps or while they are awake and quiet
Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) – Test uses electrodes taped to the baby’s scalp. While the baby sleeps sounds are played, while we measure brain activity in response to the clicking sounds.
All of these tests are painless. It is recommended that all babies be screened within their first month of birth and that evaluation and confirmation of hearing loss be determined by 3 months of age. Ideally early intervention can be started by 6 months of age.
Pediatric Hearing Testing for Infants to Teenage Years
Evaluating pediatric hearing problems, from infants to teenagers, can include the above-mentioned OAEs, ABRs and Acoustic Immittance tests. A child may also undergo other types of evaluations based on age. They might include visual reinforcement audiometry or conditioned play audiometry.
Hearing Loss Treatment Solutions
A pediatric hearing aid may be the difference between a learning delay and expected success. Early intervention in pediatric hearing loss involves embarking on a specialized program to help your child hear more, as quickly as possible. A child’s brain is programmed to learn language during the first six years of life, with the first three years being the most critical. Often, finding the right pediatric hearing aid is a critical intervention.
Albuquerque Hearing and Balance supports all methods of amplification for children including:
- Pediatric Hearing Aids – evaluations and fittings
- Cochlear Implants
- Bone Anchored Hearing Aid Devices
- FM Systems