A child’s ability and quality of life depends on the power to hear voices and sounds. Hearing helps to learn, read, and respond to sounds happening around you. A child might face difficulty in keeping up with life’s speed without good hearing. Therefore, it is essential to test a child for possible hearing loss as soon as signs become visible so he or she can learn to cope.
Signs of Hearing Loss in a Young Child
Signs of hearing loss are very difficult to identify in infants. Many children with hearing problems respond to their environment with sight, sense, or touch, which actually masks their hearing impairment. It is very difficult to find out that the child has hearing problem until they reach 12 or 18 months when children typically begin speaking. If a child does not speak at this time, it is possible he or she has a hearing problem. It is important that parents take their infants for a hearing screening within one month of birth. Many healthcare centers perform hearing screenings as a routine procedure for newborns, but if a baby has not had a screening, parents should consult their doctor and arrange for one.
Because children learn to talk by listening and imitating the sounds that they hear, it is important to detect hearing problems early. If screenings reveal that a child is suffering from hearing loss, early medical help such as a hearing aid can help the child avoid speech delay.
Parents should suspect hearing problems if their child is not startled by a loud sound such as a cough, shout, or dog bark or if he or she does not respond to music, voices, or other sounds. If a mild lullaby does not soothe a baby or the baby does not turn his or her head toward a noise, parents should take note. Usually by 2 months, babies calm down after hearing familiar voices and respond to sounds by making noises or by lifting legs and arms; if a baby does not do so, then he or she should be assessed for hearing problems.
A healthy infant of 4 to 8 months learns to turn his or her head toward the sound made behind his or her back and seems happy or excited to hear a ringing sound or the sound of a toy. If a baby does not exhibit these behaviors, then he or she might have a hearing problem.
Parents should take note if their baby changes expression or reacts to loud noises or familiar sounds. Parents should suspect hearing problems if their baby does not make or even try to imitate sounds by six months or does not smile or laugh at different sounds. Babies at this age cry differently depending on his or her needs and make babbling sounds or talk to him or herself. A baby with hearing loss or reduced hearing might not be able to understand even simple word-action correlations like “bye-bye” with waving hand, or he or she might respond to a vibrating sound that can be felt but not to the one that cannot be felt. Absence of these responses should alert the parents to possible hearing problems.
A baby of 8 to 12 months might have problem in hearing if he or she doesn’t respond to his or her name or does not turn toward soft noises or “sshh” sounds. The baby might not be able to repeat words or sounds or make different consonant sounds such as M, P, B, or G.
Babies of this age respond to songs or music by jumping, laughing, dancing, or singing and say simple words like “da-da” or “ma-ma.” If babies do not exhibit these typical verbal responses, they should be taken for a hearing assessment.
If a baby is diagnosed with hearing loss the challenges for parents increases much more. Hearing impairment can be temporary or permanent. Temporary hearing loss may be due to pressure change in the middle ears or fluid accumulation from allergies or ear infections. This type of hearing impairment can be corrected by treating the underlying cause. Permanent hearing loss that is present right from birth could be hereditary or could be caused by medical complications such as a lack of oxygen at birth. If permanent hearing loss is diagnosed, parents should consult their doctor about which hearing aid will best suit their child. Parents can also consult an audiologist who is a hearing specialist that can help them understand solutions and options for treatment. Knowing how well therapies such as lip-reading and speech therapy or sign language will help a child with hearing problems is very important.
A parent’s positive attitude toward hearing loss can help a child cope with the disability. If parents show interest in educating their child about hearing devices, he or she will learn become comfortable with it quickly and use it in public without embarrassment. With parents’ encouragement, understanding, and support a child can enjoy a world of better communication.