Children are receptive to language as soon as they’re born, and they begin processing and building skills for speech around six months of age. So they need to be getting good quality sound as early as possible.
All newborn babies have their hearing screened before they leave the hospital, and most school-age children are screened annually. But what about the time in between screenings? How can you recognize possible hearing loss in your child?
According to Anita Jeyakumar, M.D., chief of Carilion Clinic’s Pediatric Otolaryngology department, hearing problems or hearing loss can often be difficult to detect by parents and caregivers.
“Children can have ‘selective’ hearing,” she explained. “However, some patterns should raise a flag that there could be a larger problem.”
It’s important to be able to identify the signs of hearing loss in your kids, and early detection is key. Here are some things to watch for:
- Infants should respond to sounds; loud noises should startle them and they should respond to your voice when you talk to them.
- As they reach the six-month mark, babies should begin making sounds and responding to their name; they usually say their first words at around one year of age.
- As they become toddlers, children’s vocabulary should increase and they should be able to follow basic commands.
- School-age children should be able to hear you if you talk to them from another room and be able to understand you even if you’re not face-to-face.
- When children are a bit older, notice if they continually need to turn up the TV or electronic devices
- For a child of any age, take note of any sudden changes in speech or performance in school.
“Hearing problems in children and teens is shown to have a clear association with depression and poor social skills,” said Dr. Jeyakumar. “If they don’t get the help they need, 47 percent of hearing-impaired children won’t finish high school even though, on average, they have a higher IQ than hearing children.”
Helping children with hearing issues requires a team, including pediatric physicians, specialists, audiologists, speech pathologists and also the child’s school, teachers and day care providers.
If you suspect your child is having trouble hearing, make an appointment first with their pediatrician.
Learn more about hearing loss in children by visiting the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery or the Hearing Loss Association of America.