Having your child's hearing tested on a regular basis is one of the most important diagnostic health tests that you can do that will help to ensure any challenges to proper development are caught early. If not diagnosed properly, hearing issues can manifest themselves as behavior problems or cognitive disorders when the root cause is much different. Let's take a look at what dads need to know about getting their children's hearing tested.
As you already know, you need to have your children checked for their hearing when they are young. Early intervention is so important when there are hearing or sight issues in children and it’s one of the reasons that hospitals will perform a hearing test on a newborn baby not long after birth. The earlier you detect issues with hearing, the easier time your family will have in finding a solution.
There are so many things that can cause hearing loss. Illnesses, hereditary genetics and injury can all cause hearing loss and this can lead to school difficulties, difficulties with interactions and leaves an impact on a child’s life. Almost all schools will ask that children have a hearing test before their enrolment date, and early intervention for hearing loss can ensure that the school is up to scratch with support. If children are found to have issues with their hearing, there are plenty of resources out there to help them and their families. If you are concerned about your child’s hearing, then speaking to a GP early will help to ensure that your child has the right support.
Causes of Hearing Loss in Children
There are so many factors that can increase the chances that your child could end up with some degree of hearing loss. Understanding the ‘how’ can help you to be in the best condition when it comes to help and support. Some of the causes of childhood hearing loss include:
- It’s congenital. This means that there has been a defect during pregnancy or birth that has led to your child being born with a degree of hearing loss. It affects three to four in 1,000 newborn babies. It may be temporary or mild but can be equally profound or permanent.
- Exposure. Exposing a child to loud noise at a high decibel can lead to hearing loss and this can happen over a prolonged period of time, too. Loud sounds can come from a range of sources, from power tools and loud music to fireworks.
- Illness. Not all illnesses that cause hearing loss have to be ear-related. Fluid build up in the head and even chemotherapy can cause hearing loss. It’s usually temporary if it’s illness-related, too.
Signs That Your Child May Have Early Stage Hearing Loss
While adults might be able to articulate that they have issues hearing properly, this can be a big more complicated in children who are not able to articulate their challenges quite as well. This is ultimately why regular hearing checks are so important but there are other signs that parents should be aware of that might prompt them to visit and audiologist sooner than later.
Here are some signs that parents, including dads, should look out for that might indicate potential hearing issues:
Infants and Toddlers:
- Lack of Startle Response: Most babies will startle or jump at sudden loud noises. If a baby fails to react in this way, it might be a sign of hearing loss.
- Delayed or Absent Speech Development: By the age of one, most children can say simple words like "mama" or "dada." If these milestones are delayed, it could be a sign of hearing issues.
- Lack of Response to Familiar Voices: If a baby doesn't turn his or her head towards familiar voices, it might be a sign of hearing problems.
- Difficulty Locating Sounds: Babies usually turn their heads towards the source of a sound. If they don't, it could be a sign of hearing loss.
Preschool and School-Aged Children:
- Speech Difficulties: Unclear speech, limited vocabulary, or difficulty forming sentences may indicate hearing issues.
- Frequent Misunderstanding: If a child often asks for things to be repeated or misunderstands questions, it might be a sign of hearing problems.
- Volume Issues: Listening to the TV or music at a very high volume or complaining that the volume is too low may be indicative of hearing loss.
- Difficulty Following Instructions: Children with hearing problems may have trouble following multi-step instructions because they may not hear all the details.
- Social Challenges: Children with hearing loss may have difficulty playing with other children, which can lead to feelings of isolation or frustration.
- Academic Struggles: Struggling in school, particularly with reading and writing, may be a sign of hearing issues.
General Signs for All Ages:
- Tinnitus: Ringing or buzzing in the ears, known as tinnitus, can be a sign of hearing damage.
- Ear Pain or Discharge: Any pain or discharge from the ears should be taken seriously, as it may indicate an infection or other underlying issue affecting hearing.
- Frequent Ear Infections: Chronic ear infections can lead to temporary or even permanent hearing loss.
If a parent notices any of these signs, it's essential to consult with a healthcare provider, such as a pediatrician or an audiologist, who can conduct a professional hearing evaluation. Early detection and intervention are crucial, as they can lead to more effective treatment and support, helping the child develop essential communication and social skills.
Hearing Problems In Children May Be Due To Neurological Or Health Issues Too
Health or neurological issues that may cause hearing problems in children can be congenital or acquired. Congenital factors include genetic predispositions, where a family history of hearing loss might increase the risk. Infections during pregnancy, such as rubella or cytomegalovirus cytomegalovirus (CMV), can also lead to hearing impairment in the child. Acquired causes might include chronic ear infections, which can damage the eardrum or the tiny bones in the ear, leading to hearing loss.
Neurological disorders, such as auditory neuropathy, can disrupt the transmission of sound signals to the brain, affecting the child's ability to hear. These medical and neurological factors often require professional medical intervention, including regular monitoring, hearing aids, or even surgery in some cases.
Benefits of Hearing Tests for Children
We know that the earlier we find issues for any child, the better we are equipped to help. Hearing loss is no different. Some children may not be aware of their degree of hearing loss until they are tested, but they may have speech and language issues or they may seem like they’re ignoring you.
The earlier you decide to get your child’s hearing tested, the better. Hearing tests only take around fifteen minutes and for children, hearing tests take into consideration their level of communication. Some children are able to press a button or point in response to a sound they hear through the headphones. Others are unable to communicate that quite yet!
Hearing loss can be quite the struggle for little ones, and it’s important that diagnosing happens early to ensure any issues are picked up as early as possible. This will lead to much better communication than they could achieve without added hearing issues. The diagnosis of a hearing issue can also lead to a diagnosis of a developmental delay. The earlier this particular issue is diagnosed the better. Hearing changes throughout childhood so if your child has an issue detected in their hearing tests, then regular checkups are a smart idea! If you have any concerns about your child’s hearing then speaking to your audiologist or doctor is the best possible outcome.
Hearing tests are vital for children because the identification of those issues allows for the most appropriate treatment to be given. It will also help to prevent any long term damage that can be caused by a hearing problem left untreated. From here, regular hearing tests will ensure an improvement in the development of their communication and language skills. It’ll also help to ensure that you are able to offer the best possible support with the right diagnosis alongside you. Parents that ensure that their child is undergoing regular hearing tests will find their child is healthier than they possibly can be.
How Are Child Hearing Tests Conducted
Children's hearing tests are conducted using various methods, depending on the child's age, development, and specific needs. Here's an overview of some common techniques used to assess hearing in children:
1. Newborn Hearing Screening:
For newborns, hearing tests are usually conducted before leaving the hospital. Two common methods are used:
- Otoacoustic Emissions (OAEs): This test checks for echoes produced by the inner ear in response to sound. A small probe is placed in the ear, which sends sounds and measures the echoes. If there are no echoes, it might indicate a hearing loss.
- Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR): This test measures how the auditory nerve responds to sound. Electrodes are placed on the baby's head, and sounds are played through earphones. The electrodes measure the nerve's response to the sounds.
2. Behavioral Observational Audiometry (BOA):
Used for infants and young toddlers, BOA relies on observing a child's behavior in response to specific sounds. The audiologist watches for changes like sucking, eye movement, or head-turning when sounds are played.
3. Visual Reinforcement Audiometry (VRA):
For toddlers and preschoolers, VRA uses visual rewards like toys or lights to encourage a child to respond to sounds. When the child hears a sound, they are trained to look towards a visual stimulus, helping the audiologist gauge their hearing ability.
4. Play Audiometry:
Used with preschool and school-aged children, play audiometry turns hearing tests into a game. The child is asked to perform a simple task, like placing a block in a bucket, each time they hear a sound. It helps the audiologist assess hearing ability in a fun and engaging way.
5. Conventional Audiometry:
Older children and teenagers may undergo conventional audiometry, similar to adult hearing tests. They wear headphones and respond to sounds by pressing a button or raising a hand. The audiologist can assess hearing thresholds across different frequencies.
This test helps identify issues with the middle ear, such as fluid or infections. A probe is placed in the ear, and pressure changes are used to measure how the eardrum moves. It's often used in conjunction with other tests.
7. Bone Conduction Testing:
If there's a concern about middle or outer ear function, bone conduction testing may be used. It bypasses the outer and middle ear, sending sounds directly to the inner ear through a special device placed on the bone behind the ear.
Children's hearing tests are tailored to their developmental stage and specific needs. They are designed to be non-invasive and often engaging for the child. Early and regular hearing screenings are essential, as early detection and intervention can have a significant impact on a child's speech, language, and overall development. If hearing issues are suspected, a pediatric audiologist will have the expertise to choose the appropriate tests and interventions for the child.
If you are looking to get your child tested for hearing loss, the best thing that you can do is speak to your doctor and seek out the best possible audiologist to help! You and they deserve all the possible help that you can get!