How to Help Your Child Navigate a Quiet World

With recent advances in technology and research, parents of children with hearing loss — whether one ear or both, partial or complete deafness — have a plethora of resources to help their children navigate life. But, where does one begin when there is so much information available? When your child has hearing loss, parents with questions about with hearing loss have to be able to find the answers they need.

Early Intervention

With current technology, hearing assessments can be done within hours after a child is born, and all 50 states now mandate hearing tests before a newborn is discharged from the hospital. The ABR (auditory brainstem response) and OAE (otoacoustic emission) evaluations are effective for infants and children who cannot respond as needed in traditional hearing tests.

help your child navigate a quiet world

For children, hearing loss risk factors include ear infections, being born prematurely or with a low birth weight (less than two pounds), certain diseases and syndromes.

Common indicators parents should keep in mind are speech delay, frequent or recurrent ear infections, a family history of hearing loss, medical treatments including some antibiotics and chemo therapies and poor school performance.

Children with undetected hearing loss may not develop normal speech and language or acquire the cognitive abilities (knowing, thinking, and judging) needed for learning.If it remains undetected until age 2 or 3, the child may suffer from permanent impairment of speech, language and learning.

By identifying hearing loss at a very young age, treatments and rehabilitation can provide early intervention, allowing the child to stay on target with their peers in their acquisition of speech skills and cognitive development.

Technology

While technology won’t “cure” a person’s hearing loss, it can be of assistance.Options include hearing aids, cochlear implants, and bone-anchored hearing aids. Each device works differently and targets different parts of the ear. Hearing aids make sounds louder and can be worn by people of all ages.

They come in a variety of styles including behind-the-ear, which are ideal for children with growing ears, and small, inside-the-ear versions. Babies with hearing loss may understand sounds better using hearing aids. This may give them the chance to learn speech skills at a young age, like any other child.

For children with severe to profound hearing loss, a cochlear implant may be effective when a hearing aid is not enough. The impact does not make sounds louder but instead sends sound signals directly to the hearing nerve. It is made of two parts — one is surgically placed inside the ear, the other is worn outside the ear.A bone-anchored hearing aid might be an option for a child with a conductive, mixed or unilateral hearing loss or for those who cannot wear an inside-the-ear or behind-the-ear hearing aid.

Medical

For some, medication or surgery may be an effective option, particularly if the child is suffering from conductive hearing loss involving a part of the outer or middle ear that is not functioning properly. Conductive hearing loss can be caused by a chronic ear infection when there is a build-up of fluid behind the eardrum.

These infections can be managed with medication. However, if they persist, a simple surgery that places a tiny tube into the eardrum to drain the fluid out can be effective. Conductive hearing loss can also occur when part of the outer or middle ear did not form correctly while the baby was in embryo.

This type of hearing loss may be improved and perhaps even corrected with surgery and the placement of a cochlear implant or bone-anchored hearing aid.

Language

Without extra help, children with hearing loss will likely have problems acquiring language skills, putting them at risk for other delays, meaning these families often need to learn special skills to help their children learn language. There are a variety of language approaches that can be used in combination with hearing devices.

These approaches include: auditory-oral (natural gestures, listening, lip reading, spoken speech), auditory-verbal (listening, spoken speech), bilingual (American Sign Language and English), cued speech (cueing, lip reading) and total communication (Conceptually Accurate Signed English, Signing Exact English, finger spelling, listening, Manually Coded English, natural gestures, lip reading, spoken speech).

As you consider each of these treatments, know that there are support groups available for parents with children with hearing loss as well as expert guidance from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, which provides a wide range of resources including a searchable database containing the names and contact information of audiologists and speech-language pathologists. Many parents find by combining a variety of therapies, they are able to successfully navigate their children through a quiet world.

Photo Credit By: healthontrack.info

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