Hearing loss is often associated with aging, but it can happen at any age. As a parent, it is essential to understand the signs and symptoms of hearing loss in children so that treatment can be sought as early as possible. Since hearing loss can be gradual, the child or their family may not be fully aware that there is an issue at hand. Hearing loss can be associated with issues affecting the inner ear, middle ear, or outer ear. It can also be due to problems with the acoustic nerve or the entire auditory system.
Hearing loss in infants
While we don’t expect a newborn to talk or interact at such a young age, there are still signs to look out for with regards to their hearing. Ideally, a pediatric audiologist should always do a hearing screening by one month of age. At this stage in life, the audiologist will be looking for signs that the infant is already hard of hearing or potentially deaf. The two forms of testing, either an Automated Auditory Brainstem Response or the Otoacoustic Emissions Exam, are both entirely painless and take only about ten minutes to complete. These are the hearing loss signs to watch for with an infant:
- Slow development with sitting, walking, and other milestones
- They appear to disregard specific sounds
- Slow speech development
- They seem to notice vibrations more than noises
- A lack of interaction with noise rather than sight
- Doesn’t get startled by loud noises
Without testing, it can be challenging to notice the signs of hearing impairments with an infant until months later. Children develop rapidly, and their brains go through a period of extreme development up to the age of three. Early intervention is critical to give a child the best opportunities for the development of spoken language.
Pediatric hearing aids have improved immensely over the last few decades and have several features that are specific to children. Battery cases are tamper-resistant, and babies from only a few months of age can be fit for a hearing aid. Assistance with changing batteries for in-ear hearing aids, sign language training, and family support services can all be made available once a hearing loss issue is identified.
Hearing loss in children
Hearing loss can happen at any time throughout a person’s life. Childhood illnesses such as measles, chickenpox, meningitis, or even the flu can cause hearing loss. Exposure to very loud noises, whether sudden or repetitive, can also damage a child’s hearing.
It is best to take your child for another hearing test before they start school. This will ensure that your family is given timely intervention and treatment if any issues arise. Signs that your child may have trouble hearing can include:
- A lack of response to voices or even loud noises
- A delay in speech development
- Preferring to have the television or tablet at a high volume
- Consistent earaches or rubbing of the ears
- Difficulty following conversations or understanding instructions
- Difficulty paying attention
Talk to your child’s doctor if you have any concerns about their hearing. Trust your instincts and be persistent as hearing loss can impact your child’s social development and ability to communicate.