Hearing loss is a gradual or sudden decrease in your child’s ability to hear sounds. It’s important to get hearing problems checked and treated because they can cause problems with communication and relationships with other people. Hearing loss can also cause safety issues.
Hearing losses may be mild, moderate, severe, or profound. The level of severity is determined by the loudness of sound that a child can hear. For example:
Hearing loss happens when there is a problem with one or more parts of the ear or hearing pathways. There are different types of hearing loss. For example:
Your child may have a hearing problem if:
Most states test a newborn's hearing before the baby leaves the hospital. Later on, any child who may have a hearing loss needs full testing. Your child may be referred to a hearing specialist or an ear, nose, and throat specialist for hearing tests. Your child may have X-rays or other scans to check for possible causes of hearing loss.
A child's early years are very important for learning and the development of language. Treating hearing problems early makes a big difference in how well your child does later in life. Treatment depends on the cause. Possible treatments include:
Hearing aids make sounds louder. They do not make sounds clearer and may distort some sounds. Children of all ages can use hearing aids. The aids may even help babies. To use the hearing aid, your child will need to learn to pay attention to voices and ignore background noises.
Language training programs for hearing-impaired children are offered as early as infancy. Parent-infant programs help you learn how to help your child.
A child with hearing loss can use many ways to communicate. You and your healthcare provider will decide what ways work best for your child. For a severe hearing loss, your child may need to learn speech-reading, finger spelling, and sign language.
Contact your local school district before your child starts school. Some schools have special programs for children with hearing loss. A team of professionals will help evaluate your child and put together an Individual Education Plan (IEP). Parents have a right to help put together this plan. You may also ask your healthcare provider to review the plan.
A buildup of fluid in the middle ear could worsen your child's hearing loss. Your child may need to have tubes put in the ears to help drain fluid. If your child also has hearing loss from something other than a fluid buildup in the ear, he can use a hearing aid with ear tubes. The tubes usually fall out on their own after several years, but can also be removed in a later surgery.
Your child may benefit from an electronic device, called a cochlear implant that is surgically put inside the ear. The implant turns the vibrations we call sound into electrical signals that are sent to the brain. This is different from normal hearing and it takes time to learn. Your child will need to learn to understand the signals as sounds.
Children with hearing loss need regular hearing, and ear exams. Younger children need to be tested more often than older children because their ear canals are growing and changing shape and they might not be able to tell you that their hearing is getting worse. Because your child's other main way to learn and communicate is through sight, regular eye exams are also important to ensure that your child keeps seeing well.
Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider. In addition:
Ask your provider:
Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.