Selective hearing often comes to mind when we think of children. Their young ears are tuned in for fun activities and tuned out when it is time for chores. However, if a child has a genuine hearing problem, serious consequences can result from it. Hearing ability impacts a child’s communication and learning development, making it vital to test children’s hearing at an early age.
Importance of Healthy Hearing at the Beginning of Life
Language development is dependent on a child’s ability to hear. In the United States, Research indicates that two to three out of every 1,000 children have a detectable level of hearing loss. Reading, writing, and social skills are affected by hearing impairment. It is therefore imperative to diagnose and intervene early for successful outcomes.
What the Appointment Entails
A child’s age, development, and health status determine the type of hearing testing used by an audiologist. Diagnosing a hearing impairment involves a hearing screening and a full hearing test.
Screening is a simple, painless test for hearing loss administered no later than one month of age. It is best to check babies before they leave the hospital and certainly no later than three months of age. A full hearing test is appropriate for all children who do not pass a hearing screening.
Full Hearing Test
A full hearing test, also referred to as a hearing evaluation, is administered by an audiologist. Tests used during a hearing evaluation for a child include:
- Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) Test. This test checks the brain’s response to sound. A child can sleep through this trial as it requires no response behavior.
- Behavioral Audiometry Evaluation. This evaluation tests all parts of the ear. It requires a child to participate in the trial actively.
- Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE). The OAE is a test that checks the inner ear response to sound. Like the ABR, a child can sleep through the test.
Proper Language and Learning Development
Hearing loss in children affects speech, language development, communication, and education. Early intervention is critical for children suspected of hearing loss. A hearing loss in a child can impact the following:
- Vocabulary– children with hearing loss develop vocabulary slower than children who do not have a hearing problem. As children age, the gap becomes wider, and children do not catch up without intervention.
- Academic achievement– all academic areas are affected by a hearing impairment. The level of academic achievement attained by a child with a hearing loss is affected by the level of parental involvement and available support services.
- Speaking– it is hard for children with a hearing loss to hear quiet speech sounds. Because of this, these kids avoid certain sounds which in turn makes their speech difficult to understand.
- Sentence structure– a child with a hearing loss will produce simpler sentences and experience difficulty writing complex sentences.
- Social function– it is not unusual for hearing impaired children to experience feelings of isolation. These feelings affect socialization and often results in unhappiness at school.
Early intervention is essential if you suspect your child has a hearing problem. A 2017 study concludes that early diagnosis and intervention for children with hearing loss helps them develop necessary communication skills. An early intervention that includes testing with an audiologist will directly impact the child’s communication development. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) can provide you with a listing of qualified audiologists.