Being able to hear is critical for children. They need to detect the sounds in the surrounding environment to develop adequate speech and language skills. If they don’t, then it could affect their education and future careers.
Hearing issues in children are more common than many parents realize. Around 1.9% of children have trouble hearing – the equivalent of one in 50 – with a further one in 1,000 having permanent hearing loss.
Ideally, you should deal with your child’s hearing loss issues as soon as you can. Hence, taking them for regular checkups at the audiologist is essential. Early screenings can detect hearing trouble – even from a very young age – putting your mind and ease and ensuring that your child has a regular development.
What is audiology for children?
Audiology for children involves many of the same tests done for adults. For example, if your child is old enough, your audiologist will conduct an audiogram – a hearing test that requires the child to report when they can hear pure tones through a pair of headphones.
There are also special hearing tests for very young children and babies. These tests observe the machinery of the ear directly to detect any possible signs of hearing loss.
Once the audiologist detects evidence of hearing loss (if there is any), they will then suggest a range of interventions based on the diagnosis. For example, they may recommend that your child receive hearing aids or implants or suggest speech, language and occupational therapies where appropriate.
When should you take your child to the audiologist?
Ideally, you should take your child for regular checkups at the audiologist during the first few years of their life to confirm that their hearing is normal. This way, you can address issues with hearing early on to prevent developmental delays and problems in the future.
There are various signs that your child is hard of hearing worth looking out for. These include:
- Trouble keeping up with school work
- Speaking loudly or shouting at inappropriate times
- Trouble paying attention when people are speaking to them
- Frequently asking people to repeat themselves or saying “what?”
- Only paying attention to you when you are directly in front of them
- Problems following basic instructions
- Not observing approaching traffic
- Not reacting to sudden, loud noises in the environment
If you notice any of these signs, you can get peace of mind for going for an immediate screening.
You can also look out for age-specific signs of hearing loss in children. Children who are hard of hearing between the ages of 7-12 months, for instance, won’t react to loud noises or their name being called. Those aged 16-18 months won’t say “mama” and “dad.” And those approaching their fourth birthday will have broken or hard to understand speech.
Please note that children won’t always report that they are struggling to hear what you are saying. Typically, they assume that their hearing is normal.
Can you take a newborn baby to the audiologist?
Pediatric audiologists offer a battery of tests to determine whether your newborn can hear. In some states, it is the law to get your newborn’s hearing tested.
Audiologists will perform a test called an automated auditory brainstem response. This test measures how the auditory nerve and brain respond to sounds played through headphones. If the baby can hear, these brain regions should light up.
There is another test called an otoacoustic emissions test. Here, audiologists place a probe inset the ear canal and then measure soundwaves produced by the inner ear. Each method takes around five to ten minutes to complete.
If your baby doesn’t pass the hearing tests, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are deaf. Audiologists will then conduct further tests to identify the cause of the test failure and may recommend treatment.
What is auditory processing disorder?
Auditory processing disorder is a condition in which the brain struggles to make sense of all the sounds in the environment. It is particularly problematic in loud classrooms where there are many noises coming in from all directions. Audiologists typically diagnose this condition when the child is older – around age seven – when they can repeat back strings of letters and numbers used in the test.
Parents should get their children’s hearing screens from an early age. It’s painless and provides tremendous peace of mind by avoiding your child missing out on key developmental milestones.
If you’d like to learn more about audiology for children, please contact Valley Hearing Center at 831-240-4162.