Not A Deaf Ear, Hearing Disability Needs Early Intervention
Today is World Hearing Day, and here are five things that every parent should know about their child's hearing.
As per the WHO, hearing loss in children affects communication and behaviour
- Hearing problems in children should be taken seriously
- If your child asks you to repeat things,s/he might have a hearing problem
- Exposure to excessive noise can cause hearing loss in children
Don't turn a deaf ear towards hearing problems. Out of every 1000 newborns, an estimated 5-6 infants are hard of hearing and suffer from some degree of hearing loss. These babies are usually not identified until they reach the age of 2 or older, and by then irreversible damage has occurred. This is largely because the adults in their lives do not know or recognize the signs of hearing loss or know how to get treatment in India. As per the WHO, hearing loss in young affects communication, cognition, behaviour, social-emotional development and academic performance. Sadly, a huge number of children, especially in developing countries like India, don't have access to proper diagnosis and follow-up infrastructure. They are often condemned to a life of frustration and underutilised potential.
5 things every parent should know about hearing loss in children
There are few greater joys in life than having a child, and few prayers more earnest than for the child to be born healthy. Infancy is a very tender phase, one that can affect the child in its later life. Parents need to be mindful of many things, among which is the hearing of their newborn. Today is World Hearing Day, and here are five things that every parent should know about their child's hearing.
1) Infants are vulnerable, and hearing impairments often go unnoticed until it's too late
Disabilities are usually not identified till infants reach the age of two or more years, by which time significant damage has already occurred. Hearing loss in children delays speech development, which can impact their ability to interact with others-leading to feelings of confusion, isolation and difficulties learning. Early intervention is the best way to help your child grow up normally.
2) Mothers know best. So here are the signs they need to look out for
In a recent survey conducted with Indian mothers by Cochlear India and First Moms Club, 84.1% of Indian moms agreed that children should be tested for hearing loss at birth, however, only 38.9% actually had their child screened. These findings show that while mothers are well aware of the need to detect hearing loss early in childhood, they are not fully aware of what they must do or where they can go to get their children screened.
Your infant or child may need a hearing evaluation of they:
- Don't respond or seem to notice when you have spoken to them
- Ask you to repeat things
- Need to look around them for the source of the voice or sound
- Start talking later than children the same age (according to teachers, etc.)
- Can't say words and sentences correctly
- Have trouble hearing conversations when several people are talking
- Miss quick or soft sounds
- Are performing poorly in school
3) Early intervention can help children grow up quite normally.
The earlier a child is tested, diagnosed, and treated for hearing loss, the greater the chances of realizing his or her full potential. Research shows that children identified with hearing loss, if they get early intervention, can develop language skills (spoken and/or sign) on par with their peers with normal hearing. These children are able to attend mainstream schools, communicate with their teachers and classmates, make new friends, and live confidently
4) Hearing loss in children can be caused by many reasons, including:
- Congenital defects
- Maternal malnutrition
- Head/ear injury during childbirth; Accidents
- Exposure to excessive noise
- Use of ototoxic drugs (drugs that are toxic or damaging to the ear)
- Infectious childhood diseases such as meningitis, measles, mumps, or chronic ear infections
5) Hearing loss can be addressed through treatment, hearing aids, or implants
Children with hearing loss should be referred to, and managed by, a multidisciplinary team of audiologists, ENT specialists, speech pathologists, and educational specialists. Children with mild-to-moderate hearing loss are usually recommended hearing aids, which is the first line of treatment and can be used for children as young as four weeks of age. Children who do not benefit from hearing aids can go for a Cochlear implant - a surgically implanted electronic device that restores hearing in children with severe hearing loss. Any parent that is concerned about their child's hearing should seek the help of a healthcare professional, as there are many opportunities for treatment and care.
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