Hearing Loss in Children: A Neurological & Developmental Emergency
Professionals who are providing direct services to children with hearing loss should strive to maintain developmental synchrony whenever possible. That is, if a child with hearing loss is to take advantage of these natural stages of neurological and linguistic development, our goal should be to assist the child in acquiring communication outcomes at the same rate and at the same age when typical hearing children would acquire them. For this to happen, newborn screening must occur before the child leaves the hospital or birthing center and a referral to a pediatric audiologist must be immediate. Once the diagnosis is confirmed and amplification (i.e., digital hearing aids) is fitted, prompt implementation of appropriate family-centered early intervention services must occur.
If the child's parents have chosen a spoken language outcome, intensive and concentrated efforts must focus on building those auditory connections within the brain. Because these areas of the brain haven't been stimulated consistently prior to receiving amplification, the child's first responses may be minimal. However, through consistent exposure to auditory input and planned reinforcement of listening and spoken language, those neural connections will quickly form. The child will begin to respond. If the child has full access to the speech spectrum (i.e., low, mid, and high frequency sounds), he will start to gain greater environmental awareness and begin to form speech sounds, combine those sounds through babbling, and produce first words. By managing the hearing loss, providing intense and consistent intervention, and having high expectations for listening, most children with hearing loss can regain developmental synchrony and progress through these natural stages in the acquisition of spoken language. For children with severe and profound sensorineural hearing loss, cochlear implantation may be necessary, but parents should have the same expectations for developmental synchrony.
Unfortunately, there is too much variation in the services that are provided to infants and toddlers with hearing loss. Parents are told "to wait until the child reaches the age of 18 months before working on speech development." In other situations, parents are told that "spoken language is not realistic unless the child has a cochlear implant, which most likely won't work anyway." Of course, these so called "recommendations" are simply false and more accurately reflect the professionals' poor training and deep-seeded personal bias.
Parents must be diligent and obtain the services that support the outcomes they desire for their children with hearing loss. Professionals must recognize that when an infant is diagnosed with a hearing loss, the child is facing a neurological and developmental emergency. If the parents have expressed having a spoken language outcome, then waiting to stimulate those auditory centers is simply unacceptable. As Carol Flexer, Ph.D., a noted pediatric audiologist, professor, and researcher, has stated, "we hear with our brains, the ears are just a way in." If we support this statement, then time cannot be wasted. Neurologically, these children are at risk, and they deserve our focused efforts to obtain developmental synchrony. Their brains can't wait.
Your Child's Hearing
Your child's hearing is extremely important because it affects his or her's ability to learn, socialize and communicate.
Most children experience temporary hearing loss due to earwax or Otitis Media. Otitis Media is painful for your child and may lead to hearing loss. It must be treated quickly and correctly.
Generally, earwax serves a useful purpose and does not harm your child's hearing. If, however, your child suffers from hearing loss due to excessive earwax, go to your family doctor for help. Do not try to remove earwax yourself. You could cause permanent damage to your child's hearing.
Communicate with your child through music and song.
Teaching children sign language has rapidly gained popularity among parents, grandparents, teachers, and so many others. People all around the world have started discovering the benefits of earlier and broadened forms of communication. Teaching children sign language gives parents and other adults the ability to better understand the children’s needs, resulting in more interaction, happiness, and stronger bonds.
Learn more about sign language for children.
Other types of hearing loss are permanent or could result in permanent hearing impairment. This could affect your child's social interaction and development. If your child suffers from hearing loss, hearing aids may be the best remedy to improve the hearing ability and minimize the adverse effects of his or her hearing problem.
Fitting with hearing aids at the youngest possible age is extremely important. An untreated hearing loss strongly affects your child’s ability to learn, socialize and communicate. When your child has begun using hearing aids, you must remember that it takes time to get used to them. And it also takes time to get used to a new ‘hearing situation’.
The most critical period for the development of language is during the first three years of life, as this is the period when the brain is developing. The skills associated with the effective acquisition of language depend on exposure to, and manipulation of, these communication tools. Early identification of deafness or hearing loss is critical in preventing or ameliorating language delay or disorder in children who are deaf or hard of hearing and allows for appropriate intervention or rehabilitation. Early identifica-
tion and intervention have lifelong implications for language development.
The standard estimate of
congenital hearing loss
Chronic ear infections are a common problem in childhood. These infections may be due to bacteria or the common cold virus. The disorder often presents with persistent blockage of the ear, hearing loss, chronic ear drainage, balance problems, deep ear pain, headache, fever, excess sleepiness or confusion related to your child's hearing.
Chronic ear infections usually develop slowly over many years in patients who have had ear problems. The treatment of persistent ear infections is complex and requires a combination of antibiotics, corticosteroids, and/or placement of tubes. When this fails surgery is required to control the infection.
Children younger than seven are much more prone to otitis media due to shorter eustachian tubes which are at a more horizontal angle than in the adult ear. They also have not developed the same resistance to viruses and bacteria as adults. Numerous studies have correlated the incidence in children with various factors such as nursing in infancy, bottle feeding when supine, parental smoking, diet, allergies, and automobile emissions; but the most obvious weakness of such studies is the inability to control the variable of exposure to viral agents during the studies. Breastfeeding for the first twelve months of life is associated with a reduction in the number, and duration of all OM infections.
are still the leading reason parents have their child's hearing examined by a doctor. To combat infections, parents and doctors employ arsenals of antihistamines and antibiotics.
Physicians have recommended Alkalol for patients with chronic middle ear infections. For these patients, applying warm Alkalol with a soft rubber ear syringe has been effective in helping to clear up pus discharges and softening wax secretions, and as a satisfactory deodorant.