Hearing Loss in Children What You Need to Know?

hearing disability

Childhood is a period of rapid growth and development, and the senses play a pivotal role in shaping these formative years. One of the key senses that contributes to a child’s development and well-being is hearing. Yet, many parents and caregivers remain unaware of the signs and implications of hearing problems in children. Whether it’s a hearing disability or hearing loss symptoms, understanding and identifying these issues is paramount to a child’s overall health and progress.

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Types of Hearing Loss in Children

There are primarily two types of hearing loss: conductive and sensorineural. A third type, mixed hearing loss, is a combination of the two.

  • Conductive Hearing Loss: This type of hearing loss is a result of sound being blocked in the outer or middle ear. It can be due to earwax build-up, fluid in the middle ear from colds or an ear infection, and even malformations of the ear. Conductive hearing loss is often temporary and can often be treated with medical or surgical intervention.
  • Sensorineural Hearing Loss: This is the result of damage to the inner ear or the nerve pathways from the inner ear to the brain. It is usually permanent. Common causes include birth injuries, infections like meningitis, certain medications, and genetic syndromes.

Recognising Hearing Loss Symptoms in Children

Hearing problems can manifest in various ways depending on the age of the child:

  • Infants: They might not be startled by loud noises, might not turn to the source of a sound after 6 months of age, or might not say single words like “mum” or “dad” by the age of 1 year.
  • Toddlers: They might have delayed or unclear speech, not follow instructions or seem to be ignoring you, and frequently ask for things to be repeated or often say “what?”.
  • School-age children: They might have difficulty understanding what’s being said, frequently misunderstand people or seem to daydream, and have academic problems, particularly in reading and vocabulary.

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One-Sided Hearing Loss

While many may be aware of bilateral hearing loss (in both ears), unilateral hearing loss, or hearing loss in one ear, can sometimes go unnoticed. This is because the child can often still hear and respond to sounds and conversations from the ‘good’ ear. However, they may have difficulty locating where a sound is coming from or struggle in environments with background noise. It’s essential not to dismiss such hearing problems as they can affect a child’s learning and social skills.

Potential Causes

Hearing loss in children can arise from various causes:

  • Genetic Factors: Sometimes, children are born with a hearing disability due to genetics. This can be the result of either one or both parents passing down the defective gene.
  • Prenatal & Birth-related Complications: Factors like maternal diabetes, infections during pregnancy, or complications during childbirth can result in hearing problems.
  • Infections: Childhood illnesses, such as meningitis, measles, or whooping cough, can lead to hearing loss.
  • Head Injuries: Any injury to the head or ear can potentially cause hearing problems in children.
  • Exposure to Loud Noise: Constant exposure to loud noises can lead to noise-induced hearing loss.

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How to Support Children with Hearing Problems

Supporting children with hearing problems requires understanding, early intervention, and tailored resources to ensure their optimal development and well-being. Here are some ways to support children with hearing problems:

Early Detection and Diagnosis

  • Regular hearing screenings, especially during infancy and preschool years, can help in the early detection of any hearing issues.
  • Parents and caregivers should be aware of the developmental milestones related to hearing and speech and consult a specialist if they notice any deviations.

Hearing Aids and Assistive Devices

  • If diagnosed with hearing loss, using the appropriate hearing aids or cochlear implants can make a significant difference.
  • There are also assistive listening devices, such as FM systems, which can be beneficial, especially in classroom settings.

Auditory Training and Speech Therapy

  • Children with hearing problems can benefit immensely from auditory training, where they learn to use their residual hearing more effectively.
  • Speech and language therapy can help children develop clear speech and communication skills, adapting to their level of hearing.

Special Education Services

  • Many schools offer services for children with hearing disabilities, including specialised teaching methods, interpreters for those using sign language, and individualised education programmes.
  • Classroom accommodations, like seating a child at the front of the class or using visual aids, can be beneficial.

Communication Techniques

  • Encourage techniques like lip-reading or cued speech.
  • Learn and teach sign language if necessary. It can be a valuable communication tool, especially for children with profound hearing loss.

Creating an Inclusive Environment

  • Encourage inclusivity in schools and communities. Children with hearing problems should be included in all activities and not feel isolated.
  • Raise awareness about hearing loss among peers to foster understanding and reduce potential stigmatisation.

Family Support

  • Families play a crucial role in a child’s life. They should be actively involved in their child’s therapeutic processes and continuously educate themselves about hearing loss.
  • Creating a home environment where the child feels safe, understood, and encouraged is vital for their emotional and psychological well-being.

Networking with Support Groups

  • Connect with local or online support groups. Sharing experiences and resources with other parents or caregivers can offer invaluable insights and emotional support.
  • Children can also benefit from meeting peers with similar challenges, helping them realise they aren’t alone.

Stay Updated on Technological Advancements

The field of audiology is continually advancing. Stay informed about the latest in hearing aids, cochlear implants, and other technological developments that can benefit your child.

Emphasise Overall Well-being

Apart from addressing hearing issues, focus on the child’s overall well-being, ensuring they are physically healthy, emotionally supported, and mentally stimulated.

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Hearing loss in children, whether it’s conductive, sensorineural, or loss in just one ear, can have profound implications on their developmental, academic, and social journey. EuroSchool says recognising the signs and being proactive about diagnosis and treatment can ensure that a child with hearing issues can lead a life that’s as fulfilling and enriched as any other child. Always remember: early detection and intervention, combined with understanding and support, can make all the difference in the world.

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