If you’re like many people, you probably associate hearing loss with the elderly. But the truth is, hearing loss affects people of all ages – including kids. 2-3 out of every 1,000 babies in South Carolina are born with hearing loss, and an estimated 14.9% of children aged 6-19 suffer from low- or high-frequency hearing loss of at least 16 decibels, according to information from the CDC. Sobering statistics, given that children who develop a hearing impairment don’t just face the everyday challenges of others with hearing loss; their speech and language development is at risk, increasing the likelihood of social and behavioral problems as they age.
Signs of Hearing Loss in Children
Because early detection is crucial, it’s important to recognize the signs of childhood hearing loss. This can be difficult given that communication, especially with toddlers – who are often unable to vocalize a problem – is often limited. Lexington and Columbia parents should be vigilant, watching their children carefully for the following signs:
- No reaction to loud noises
- Failure to respond to your voice
- Frequent ear infections
- Delays in speech and language ability/limited vocabulary for age
- Poor academic performance
- Disorders often related to hearing loss (e.g., autism, Down syndrome)
- Family history of hearing loss
If your child is showing one or more of these symptoms, your best bet is to schedule an appointment with their pediatrician, who can provide you with a referral to a local South Carolina audiologist specializing in pediatric hearing loss. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Treating Childhood Hearing Loss
To ensure your child’s academic and social success, early intervention is important. The earlier a hearing impairment is addressed, the better the odds of reducing or preventing long-term learning and behavioral problems. Treatment depends on the type and severity of hearing loss and whether it is classified as sensorineural (occurring in the inner ear) or conductive (middle or outer ear).
A conductive hearing loss is often temporary and could be the result of fluid in the middle ear, impacted earwax, or something else benign. Medications may be prescribed, or a simple surgical procedure called tympanostomy, the implantation of ventilation tubes in the ears, may be performed. Ear tubes help promote fluid drainage and improve hearing.
A sensorineural hearing loss, on the other hand, is normally irreversible. Nerve deafness is best treated with hearing aids or, for severe or profound deafness, cochlear implants. Most children with hearing aids or cochlear implants are still able to learn to speak; many also learn sign language to assist in the communication process. Hearing aids and cochlear implants work best when children under the age of three are fitted.
If your child is showing any signs of hearing loss, reach out to your local Lexington or Columbia audiologist to schedule a hearing evaluation.