Hearing Loss in Children and Early Intervention
What do Audiologists do?
An audiologist works with people who have hearing, balance and other ear-related problems. They examine individuals and identify those with the symptoms of hearing loss and other auditory, balance, and related sensory and neural problems. All babies should have their hearing screened after birth. In the UK it is compulsory to test your baby’s hearing before leaving the hospital. Audiologists’ job is to assess the nature and extent of the problems and help the patients to manage them.
Using audiometers, computers, and other testing devices, audiologists measure the loudness at which a person begins to hear sounds, the ability to distinguish between sounds, and the impact of hearing loss on an individual’s daily life. In addition, audiologists use computer equipment to evaluate and diagnose balance disorders. Audiologists interpret these results and may coordinate them with medical, educational, and psychological information to make a diagnosis and determine a course of treatment.
Audiologist Can Help Children with Hearing Problems
Sometimes children have trouble hearing. Often these problems are found while they are still babies. If parents and doctors notice a hearing problem in a baby or toddler, they can start taking early steps to help him or her hear well. If an older child develops hearing trouble, he or she can get help, too.
One of the best people to see for a hearing problem is an audiologist. An audiologist is a specialist who’s been trained to understand how hearing works and how to help children who don’t hear normally.
A child who’s having trouble hearing could have a problem as simple as too much wax in the ears. This can be removed by a doctor with the use of curettes and other mechanic wax removal tools and help the child to hear normally again.
But hearing problems also can be more complicated – a little like solving a mystery. Why? Because the ear has several different parts which are mostly hidden inside your head, and connect to your brain. To make hearing happen, your ears need your brain and your brain needs your ears.
In that case scenario, audiologist has a set of tools to examine child’s hearing. These can include audiometers, tympanometers or VRA (visual reinforcement audiometry) used in paediatric audiometry.
An audiologist can help figure out what the problem is with a child’s hearing. He or she might send a report to the podiatrist, so they can work together on solving the problem. Children with hearing problems may visit an audiologist regularly to see how the treatments are working and to make sure their hearing hasn’t changed.
Early Hearing Loss Intervention Can Boosts Child’s Development
Why are early identification and early intervention for hearing loss so important?
Hearing is critical for the development of speech, language, communication skills, and learning. The earlier hearing loss occurs in a child’s life the more serious is the effect on the child’s development. Similarly, the earlier the hearing loss is identified and intervention begun, the more likely it is that the delays in speech and language development will be diminished. Recent research indicates that children identified with hearing loss that begin before 6 months old develop language (spoken or signed) on a par with their hearing peers.
Tackling Hearing Loss in Children
A child’s hearing tests might show that he or she has some hearing loss. The problem might affect one ear or both. The good news is that there are many treatments for children with hearing loss.
Hearing aids are common solution. These are tiny devices with built-in microphones to make sounds louder so that a child with hearing loss can hear them. Sometimes surgery can fix some or the entire hearing problem. If surgery only improves hearing to a certain degree, wearing a hearing aid can help the person to hear better after the medical intervention.
Children who have hearing problems also can get other support. They might go to special schools, where all the children have hearing problems. Or they might go to a regular school and get a little extra help when needed. Not only can they use hearing aids and other personal assistive devices, but also benefit from classroom sound amplification (soundfield) systems.
Outside or inside school, the child might get speech therapy to help them understanding and communicating with others. There are also other assistive communication software programs available which can significantly improve communication and cognitive skills. There is a whole team of specialists who are involved in helping children with hearing problems, including the family, friends, teachers of the death and SENCo specialists, doctors, therapists, and especially audiologists!
Nicole da Rocha, Clinical Audiologist and Speech Pathologist