Hearing Loss in Toddlers
What are the Signs of Possible Hearing Loss in Toddlers?
For a child to be deprived of any of its senses, quite regardless of its age, is always upsetting, but in the case of auditory impairment, confirming that he or she has a problem as early as possible can do much to improve the long-tern outcome. This, of course, serves to underline just how important it can be for parents to be aware of and to look out for the signs that could indicate hearing loss in babies and toddlers, as well as in older children. Since surveys conducted in the US suggest that as much as 3% of all infants may have a problem from birth, this further reinforces the need for parental vigilance. So, what are the telltale signs for which moms and dads should be on the lookout?
Although there are ways in which to identify the condition in infants, too often, their problem remains unidentified until they are a year or two older, and the fact that hearing loss, whether in babies, toddlers, or people of any age, tends to worsen progressively, explains the need for urgency. Even when screening tests performed on infants may display no initial abnormality, there is no guarantee that this will remain the case and is not cause for complacency on the part of parents.
Because children don’t really know what to expect from their ears, they are unlikely to complain that they cannot hear. Instead, it must be the task of the parents to keep an eye open for signs of the various developmental milestones that are generally accepted as the norm. The earliest signs of hearing loss in toddlers may have already been apparent as early as their third month of life. At this stage, a baby should recognise its mother’s voice, be startled by sudden loud noises, and be making cooing noises spontaneously.
Within the next three months, an infant should begin to turn its head in response to speech and other interesting noises, as well as make a few new sounds of their own, such as gurgling and laughing. By nine months, there should be visible signs that an infant recognises certain words like “mommy” and its own name, and by its first birthday, the infant should be able to speak one or two recognisable words. Although these are only guidelines, failure to attain these milestones could indicate hearing loss that, in toddlers, is certain to interfere further with their ongoing development unless it is managed effectively.
Should you have any reason at all to suspect that your child’s audition may be impaired, you should get him or her to your GP or a hearing healthcare professional without delay. The doctor will examine your child’s ears for signs of an infection that might be the cause of temporary impairment, and then provide a suitable antibiotic if indicated. Failing this, the doctor may conduct a few simple tests in order to decide whether to refer the case to an audiologist or ENT specialist.
Ultimately, the best way to confirm hearing loss in toddlers, or in subjects of any age, is with a programme of specialised testing. These are non-invasive and painless, and they will indicate not only whether or not there is any auditory impairment, but also just how severe it may be and its nature. Where the source of the problem is in the middle ear, the impairment is due to loss of conduction, while that which originates in the inner ear is sensorineural in nature. In some instances, both may present simultaneously. Taken together, the type and the severity of the impairment will determine the best manner in which to manage it.
In most cases of hearing loss in toddlers, the solution will be to provide a hearing aid that has been tuned to compensate for loss of audition at those frequencies identified by the tests. However, in a child with profound sensorineural deafness, the use of a conventional device may provide no significant benefit and, instead, a cochlear implant may be required.
Whichever device may be prescribed, its effects are certain to be life-changing, allowing the child to learn alongside his or her peers, without the need for special schooling.
If you have reason to suspect signs of hearing loss in your toddler, why not call in at your nearest Ear Institute clinic, and have your child examined and tested by a hearing healthcare professional. A doctor’s referral is not necessary.