Untreated hearing loss can have long-term effects on your child’s development. So, it’s important to seek treatment as soon as you realize there may be a problem to give your child the best chance at developing their speech, language and socialization skills.
Signs of Childhood Hearing Loss
Newborn to nine months:
- Your child isn’t startled by loud sounds.
- Your child doesn’t respond to your voice.
- Your child doesn’t turn their head toward sound sources such as toys, music or the television.
- They don’t babble or make many noises.
Nine to 15 months:
- Your baby still doesn’t babble and struggles to repeat simple sounds.
- They don’t use their voice to get your attention.
- They don’t respond to their name.
15 to 24 months:
- Your child struggles to use simple words.
- When prompted, your child can’t identify common objects, colors or body parts.
- They don’t express interest in songs, stories or rhymes.
- Your baby can’t follow basic commands.
Language and Speech Skills
Listening to spoken words is the basis of your child’s speech and language skills. They first learn to speak and make sounds by mimicking others. But if your child has hearing loss, they’ll miss that essential auditory stimulation.
If your child is approaching school age or attending pre-school, you and their teachers may notice signs such as inattentiveness, an inability to follow directions and speech problems. Those symptoms are often misidentified as learning and behavior disorders like ADD and ADHD.
Listening helps children learn components of speech and language, including:
- Differentiating vowel and consonant sounds
- Sentence structure
- Words with multiple meanings
Your child should receive a hearing assessment during their early school years, but don’t wait to seek treatment if you continue to notice signs of childhood hearing loss. Advocate for your child’s needs in the classroom to support their education.
Learning to interact with others teaches children how to communicate effectively and express themselves. If your child has hearing loss, they may exhibit behavioral issues, like temper tantrums, loss of interest in activities and withdrawal from interacting or playing with other kids.
Hearing allows children to understand and empathize with others based on their emotional responses. And socialization is an important part of teamwork and negotiation, which are skills your child will need in adulthood.
Hearing Devices for Infants and Children
Hearing aids: Infants as young as four weeks can wear hearing aids. Your baby should get hearing aids by the time they’re six months old if they have confirmed hearing loss. It’s essential to expose your child to sound stimuli as soon as possible to support healthy brain function and language development skills. Behind-the-ear hearing aids are common for children because they accommodate various types and degrees of hearing loss.
Cochlear implants: These devices are intended for children with severe to profound hearing loss who have not had success with hearing aids. Cochlear implants have an external component that sits over the ear and an internal mechanism surgically implanted beneath the skin. The internal receiver bypasses the damaged inner ear and sends sound signals directly to your child’s auditory nerve. Children as young as 12 months are eligible for cochlear implants if they don’t have any medical risks and are approved by their primary physician and a hearing specialist.