Every year 500,000 infants are born with a hearing disability across the world. In fact, according to the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS), 4 deaf babies are born every day in the UK. Children learn to communicate and express themselves by imitating the sounds that they hear. The ability to hear also plays a large part in the baby’s ability to learn. Hence, it is important to ensure that your child’s hearing is tested shortly after birth.
Hearing Loss in Children
There are two types of hearing loss in children – congenital (present at birth) and acquired (occurring after birth). There are several possible causes of hearing loss, including:
• Infections during pregnancy, such as German measles, syphilis, herpes, toxoplasmosis etc.
• Birth complications, such as baby being underweight or requiring neonatal intensive care or blood transfusion
• Use of ototoxic (causing damage to hearing) medication during pregnancy, such as certain classes of antibiotics
• Brain or nervous system disorders
• Family history of hearing loss
• Genetic defects such as Down’s Syndrome
• Bacterial or viral Meningitis
• Other infections such as mumps and whooping cough
• Perforation of the eardrum
Many a times hearing loss in infants is temporary, caused by accumulation of earwax or middle ear infections. These can usually be treated by medical care or by undergoing minor surgery.
Signs of hearing loss may vary and depend on the extent of hearing impairment. Some of the most common warning signals, especially in the ‘newborn to 3 months’ age group are:
• Not responding to voices or music
• Not getting startled at a sudden loud noise
• Not being soothed by soft sounds
• Not moving or waking up by nearby voices (when sleeping in a quiet room)
Of course these red flags do not always mean that your baby has a hearing disability, but it would be a good idea to see your doctor or an audiologist about it.
What you can do
The Newborn Hearing Screening Programme (NHSP) is automatically offered by the NHS to all newborns in England. The screening test must be conducted within the first few weeks of birth, and it’s usually done before you leave the maternity unit. If you’re not offered a screening test, make sure that you ask your family doctor or local audiology department to arrange for an appointment. The Automated Otoacoustic Emission screening test takes only a few minutes and is usually done when your baby is asleep. A small soft tipped earpiece is placed in the outer part of the baby’s ear, which sends clicking sounds down the ear. When the ear receives the sound, it produces an echo, which is in turn picked up by the screening equipment. The test does not hurt your baby and it is imperative that you get it done. Remember that the earlier the impairment is detected the sooner your audiologist can suggest further steps.
As your child grows, it is important to get her hearing tested regularly. At Leightons Hearing Care, we offer a comprehensive hearing test and assessment. In case any disability is detected, we will help you choose from amongst the best digital hearing aids and give you a free demonstration as well. So drop by at your nearest branch or book an appointment with Leightons Hearing Care online.