Ruling Out Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can affect a child’s learning, communication skills, language, and speech. The earlier a child is identified with hearing loss and introduced to intervention, the better their chances of lessening their delays in speech and language.
Newborn hearing screening
The California Department of Health Care Services put in action a statewide Newborn Hearing Screening Program, which screens infants for hearing loss and directs families of deaf and hard of hearing infants to appropriate services to better guide and develop their communication skills. Depending on the severity of an infant’s hearing loss, families can choose to utilize several forms of assistive devices; most commonly hearing aids or cochlear implants are used to better assist their child’s hearing needs. Specific criteria are required for the various devices. The infant is more likely to make gains in language and communication skills the sooner intervention is implemented.
Acquired causes of hearing loss in infants and toddlers
If a child passes the Newborn Hearing Screening, they are not necessarily in the clear. Children can develop hearing losses later in their development from various causes. Common causes include (not limited to): otitis media/ear infections (inflammation in the middle ear due to fluid buildup), ototoxic (damaging to the auditory system) drugs, meningitis, measles, encephalitis, chickenpox, influenza, mumps, head injury, and noise exposure. It is important for parents and caregivers to be well informed of the various conditions which may cause hearing loss in children. Knowing the causes will allow the parents and caregivers to better detect and intervene with proper treatment to increase the chances of their child’s success in speech, language, learning, and overall communication.
Ruling out hearing loss
If your child is late in developing language or is not meeting speech and language milestones, the first step is to rule out a possible hearing loss. Even if your child passed the Newborn Hearing Screening, the screening result could have yielded a false negative (inaccurately indicated your child can hear when he may have a hearing loss) or your child could have developed a hearing loss through an illness in infancy. Make an appointment with an audiologist who specializes in hearing assessments for toddlers and children to rule out a hearing loss as a possible reason your child is not meeting speech and language milestones.
If you have ruled out a hearing loss and your child continues to lag behind in speech and language development, contact us to make an appointment with one of our speech-language pathologists.
Information about the California Newborn Hearing Screening Program: http://www.dhcs.ca.gov/services/nhsp/Pages/default.aspx
Information on causes of acquired hearing loss: http://www.asha.org/public/hearing/disorders/causes.htm#acquired