The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that between 0.2% and 0.3% of children in the United States are born with hearing loss and that most of these children have parents who can hear.
Parents of children with hearing loss face unique challenges as they determine how to care for their child’s needs. Determining how to keep your child safe, learning about deaf culture, and researching treatment options is crucial, and parents must also consider the emotional impact of their child’s health needs.
Symptoms of Hearing Issues in Children
When your child is an infant and toddler, they should be able to respond to loud sounds. If your child never wakes up when there’s a thunderstorm or someone accidentally slams a door, this can be a potential sign of hearing loss. If your child is inattentive, it may also be because they can’t hear properly. Try to sit facing your child and interact with them. If they respond to you when you’re close and visible but do not respond when you move a few feet away, their hearing could be a factor. Young children with hearing loss are also often nonverbal.
If any or all of these symptoms are present, you should book an appointment with an audiologist. Pediatric audiologists are medical doctors who specialize in treating children with hearing and balance issues. These medical professionals are equipped to test your child’s hearing to determine if there is an issue and what treatment options are available. Pursue a comprehensive diagnosis from pediatric audiology professionals for a thorough exam.
Your child’s hearing should have been screened when they were an infant as part of the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) program. However, if your child failed, consult an audiologist immediately. Failing the screening does not necessarily mean that your child can’t hear. Their hearing may be intact if perhaps water in the ear affected their test results.
Another thing to consider is if your child passed their hearing test, they could still lose their ability to hear. Consult your pediatrician and a pediatric audiologist to confirm a diagnosis if your child has symptoms.
As a parent, you may have safety concerns for your child if they cannot hear properly. It’s normal to rely on audible alarms to alert you to potential dangers. However, you may need to modify your environment if your child is unable to hear correctly. For reference, you can install smoke alarms that produce vibrations or even flashing lights.
An audiologist can determine the cause of your child’s hearing issues, whether it’s reversible, and what treatment options are available. Standard treatment options include the use of hearing aids, surgery, and cochlear implants, although many people in the deaf community oppose the use of cochlear implants. This is something for you and your child to consider when thinking about treatment options. Some people also have fluid that builds up in their ears. In this case, tubes can be inserted to drain the fluid from your ear which can also prevent hearing loss and help restore hearing. Hearing aids work by amplifying sound that interacts with the vestibulocochlear nerve, which in turn, enables you to hear.
Emotional and Mental Health
Children who have difficulty hearing may feel isolated and frustrated. Your child may benefit from seeing a therapist. By doing a simple Google search of therapists in your area such as, “child psychologist in NYC,” you might be able to find someone to help your child process their feelings. If your child experienced hearing loss due to illness or an accident, they may go through a period of depression and need help adjusting. Mental health professionals, such as psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychotherapists, are trained to help individuals address their grief and develop mechanisms for coping with their situation.
Many people who are deaf or hearing impaired embrace deaf culture. Although you may want your child to regain their ability to hear, your child may benefit emotionally and socially through interaction with other individuals with hearing loss. Interacting with your child’s community can help you understand their needs and feelings in order to determine the best way to care for your child.
Although smartphones have normalized texting as a form of communication, people with hearing loss have used a Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TDD), also known as a Teletype (TTY), for decades. These devices convert text to speech so individuals with hearing loss can communicate over landlines.
To use smartphones or TTYs, your child will need to learn to read and write. You can begin the process of developing language by learning sign language with your child. Children can begin to learn sign language when they are six months of age. Learning sign language will enable you and your child to communicate directly. It will also help your child learn about sentence structure, which will be an asset when they begin to learn other languages.