Hearing loss impacts people of every age. For every thousand children born, 2 to 3 will be deaf or have some type of hearing impairment according to data from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Childhood hearing loss can be caused by developmental abnormalities in the structure of the ear, by a middle ear infection known as otitis media, by injury or exposure to loud noises, or by illnesses such as measles, meningitis, or chickenpox. Early hearing screenings are important to detect hearing loss, because the sooner it is found, the greater the child’s chances to develop their full potential.
Luckily, the most common signs of hearing loss in children are well documented for parents and caregivers to look for. In babies, the key thing to look for is how the infant reacts – or doesn’t react – to sounds. Observe whether the child is startled by loud noises and turns toward the source of the sound. Also look for failure to turn the head when you call her name or reacting to some sounds and not others.
Children with otitis media may also pull or rub at their ears, become listless or inattentive, have fevers, complain of ear pain, often do not understand instructions, and may ask for the TV to be played louder. Watch how your child interacts with others. Notice if they say “what?” or “huh?” frequently. Also note if they seem to watch the face of the speaker very carefully. Even mild hearing loss is serious, because as the children grow it can lead to delays in language and speech development, learning difficulties in school, and emotional or behavioral problems.
This is the reason that many states have instituted mandatory early hearing screenings, using tests that are completely painless, and that can be conducted even on babies. There is no such thing as “too soon” when it comes to testing your children’s hearing. The sooner any conditions are found, the sooner they can be treated. If your child has never had a hearing test, or you have observed any of the warning signs listed above, give us a call to schedule a hearing test.