The National Institutes of Health estimates that about 2 to 3 out of 1,000 American children have hearing loss. Hearing loss impairs learning capacity and development of speech and language. Early detection and intervention are two of the most important factors in the successful treatment of hearing loss in children.
If you suspect hearing loss or if your child has any of the conditions listed below, then hearing testing is strongly recommended. In addition, hearing testing is strongly recommended if your child exhibits a speech and language delay. To get started, find an audiologist near you who offers pediatric hearing services.
Select Risk Factors for Pediatric Hearing Loss
- Family history of hearing loss
- Prematurity (birth weight less than 1500 grams, or about 3 lbs)
- Low Apgar scores (your baby was very sick at birth)
- Ototoxic medications (usually IV antibiotics given due to infection)
- Hyperbilirubinemia (if your child required a transfusion or “lights” in the nursery, ask your pediatrician if this was the reason)
- Abnormalities of the ear, head, or neck, which are present at birth
- Bacterial meningitis
- Infections such as rubella, herpes, and cytomegalovirus (CMV)
- Mechanical ventilation for 10 days or more
- Syndromes such as Downs, Usher, and Turner
- Head trauma
- Chronic middle ear infections
The Hearing Aid Process
In just 5 simple steps, KP makes it easy to get your perfect hearing aid.
Pediatric Hearing Tests
No child is too young for a hearing test – even a newborn can undergo hearing testing. Hearing levels of children are evaluated using either “behavioral” test methods or “objective” test methods. Behavioral test methods require the child to respond in some manner to different sounds. Objective test methods rely on technology to evaluate different parts of the hearing system without help from the child. However, objective measures do require that the child be quiet and sit still during testing. A combination of behavioral and objective techniques is used to establish a diagnosis. In addition, word recognition testing will be conducted in order to understand a child’s ability to point to pictures or verbally repeat words.
In addition to hearing aids, a number of our centers also offer cochlear implants and FM systems for pediatric patients as well as adults. Behind the ear (BTE) devices are the most commonly used hearing aids for children, given their ease of operation and durability. For children with profound or severe hearing loss that makes traditional hearing aids ineffective, cochlear implants can help improve hearing. FM systems are used primarily in the school setting to raise the level of a speaker’s voice above the background noise (increase the signal-to-noise ratio). For children with profound or severe hearing loss that makes traditional hearing aids ineffective, cochlear implants or a bone-anchored hearing aid (BAHA) may help improve hearing.
Children living with hearing loss have more communications options today than they ever have before. Among these options are the oral method of communication, cued speech, manual methods such as fingerspelling and sign languages, and total communication, a method based on the idea that the child with hearing loss needs to use any and all of these communication methods in order to convey or receive a message. Talk with your audiologist for more details about the communication options that are right for your child.