Each year, nearly 6,000 newborns are identified with permanent hearing loss in the United States. Early identification is crucial. Fortunately, nearly 98 percent of newborns in the United States had their hearing screened before one month of age according to 2019 statics report. Untreated hearing loss can have detrimental effects on speech and language development and can even impact a child’s cognitive skills. Audiologists collaborate with early intervention specialists to ensure each child is meeting auditory and speech milestones. A team approach with specialists, parents, caregivers, and the patient is crucial to successful intervention.
Hearing loss in children not only occurs at birth and is not always even permanent. It is also important to understand that hearing loss can be late onset or progressive throughout childhood. In these circumstances, a parent or caregiver may notice delayed speech progression, the need for repetitions, lack of receptive language skills, or academic concerns. An audiologist can help determine if hearing loss is present, what type of hearing loss, and to which degree there is hearing loss. If hearing loss is identified, the audiologist will help determine the next step in that child’s care, whether it be a referral to an Ear, Nose, and Throat physician for further evaluation and treatment or if hearing aids are appropriate.
Audiologists who provide services to the pediatric population have the proper equipment and education needed to determine a child’s hearing sensitivity. They also have the resources to point parents in the right direction for knowledge on appropriate speech and hearing milestones. If you are a parent or have a loved one that you are concerned for their hearing, the American Speech Language and Hearing Association provides excellent resources to parents for knowledge on reaching age-appropriate milestones for speech and language development. Pediatricians or your child’s physician are also great resources if there are hearing concerns for a child. Additionally, most schools provide a hearing screening as a part of their preschool or kindergarten screening process. Below you will find a list of common signs of hearing loss in toddlers and school age children.
Your child is being flagged for a learning disorder or ADHD—always make sure they get a hearing screening too, since hearing loss can mimic learning disorders and behavioral conditions.
Has difficulty understanding what people are saying.
Responds inappropriately to questions (misunderstands).
Turns up the TV volume incredibly high or sits very close to the TV to hear.
Has difficulty academically, especially if they weren't present before.
Has speech or language delays or problems articulating words.
Complains of ear pain, earaches, or noises.
Says "what?" or "huh?" often.
Tootle, Kristen & Batheja, Reva. “Best Practices for Infant Hearing Aid Fittings.” Audiology Today, January/February 2022, 12-21.