Can Your Baby/Child Hear?
Hearing loss is a hidden handicap because children, especially infants and toddlers, cannot tell us that they don’t hear.
No disability impacts an infant’s or child’s ability to communicate with the world as severely as hearing loss. Profound hearing loss isolates the infant in a cocoon of silence. Even mild hearing loss (35 dB HL), left untreated, inflicts learning disabilities which may never be overcome. The severity of these learning disabilities is generally related to the length of time the hearing loss is left untreated.
More than 100,000 children under age five in the U.S. suffer from a hearing loss. In this country, hearing loss is the most widespread chronic problem for children. It’s also the least recognized problem, because it’s invisible.
During the past decade, significant advances have greatly improved our ability to identify hearing loss in the earliest days of life. Ideally, the hearing of every infant should be screened before discharge from the hospital. It is never too soon to test a child’s hearing and treatment is available at every age.
Children learn to read, write, and do math by listening to their teachers and participating in class. So hearing in the classroom is especially important during the early learning years and it doesn’t take long for a lapse in early learning to snowball into a life-long obstacle.
Many elements can have an impact on a child’s ability to focus on the teacher. If you find something that could distract your child, discuss a solution with the teacher. Even a child with a mild hearing loss can miss up to 50 percent of what is said in the classroom if there is too much background noise, he or she can’t see who is speaking, or the teacher isn’t communicating clearly.
Along with the solid base of support on the home front, your baby/child will benefit from knowing he or she is not alone in facing the challenges of a hearing loss. The opportunity to connect with other infants/children with a hearing loss should be explored through your hearing health care professional, or school system, as it can bolster your child’s self-image and sense of belonging.
If you suspect there may be a problem, don’t wait. Your baby’s hearing can be accurately tested at any age. Any suspected hearing problem in an infant or child needs to be treated by an Otolaryngologist or Ear Nose and Throat specialist.
Many states, including Florida now have mandatory hearing screening of all newborns before they leave the hospital if possible.