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Home > Medical Services > Ear, Nose & Throat > Pediatric ENT > Children’s Ear & Hearing Clinic
Parents and caregivers must be watchful for signs of hearing loss in their children and follow up with a professional evaluation.
Hearing loss is the most common birth disorder in the U.S. Early diagnosis of hearing loss is critical for development of speech, language, cognitive and psychosocial abilities. Treatment is best if any hearing loss is detected early, within the first month of life. A screening of your baby shortly after birth at the hospital is recommended. Any hearing loss should be followed up with another evaluation by the age of six months.
A child’s hearing loss can be temporary or permanent. A professional evaluation can rule out medical problems that might cause hearing loss, such as ear infection, excessive ear wax, congenital malformations or genetic hearing loss. If your child has permanent hearing loss, technology solutions like hearing aids can help, or possibly ear surgery. If hearing aids do not work, a cochlear implant may be suggested. This option bypasses the damaged parts of the auditory system to directly stimulate the hearing nerve, allowing clearer sound.
Whether hearing aids or cochlear implants are used, it’s critical for parents to have a great deal of auditory-based verbal interaction with the child. Ninety-five percent of babies with hearing loss are born to hearing and speaking families. Hearing loss is not about the ear; it’s about the brain.
Hearing loss in very young children can affect their speech, language skills, social and cognitive development. Most speech and language development occurs in the first three years of life, when the brain builds nerve pathways needed for processing auditory information. It’s important for the child to be exposed to language during this time to avoid having difficulty developing spoken language, signed language and reading skills. If there are any concerns or failure of a hearing screening, schedule a consultation.
All newborn infants should have a hearing screening shortly after birth.
Sometimes, these screenings result in a referral for more testing. Studies have shown that nearly half of all babies who fail their newborn screenings do not receive follow-up care and testing. Experienced audiologists can provide a variety of tests, depending on the child’s age and unique needs.
The auditory brainstem response test (ABR or BAER test) is commonly used. The child must be asleep when this test is done. It measures the brain’s response to different sounds with electrodes attached to the skin surface. Most infants are able to sleep through this test naturally. Older children who have trouble falling asleep easily can be sedated for this test.
Many common congenital ear disorders are discovered at birth. Two of the most common are microtia and aural atresia. It is important to consider all options in treating hearing loss; experienced audiologists and clinicians can help with this decision.