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HEARING LOSS IN CHILDREN
If you suspect or if you know that your child has a hearing loss, you may not find it easy to come to terms with it. As you have the desire to find the best possible solution for your child, many questions will occur to you. This section attempts to provide answers to some of your questions and tells you where you can find professional help.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU THINK YOUR CHILD HAS A HEARING LOSS

First, try not to worry, there is a whole range of technological and medical solutions to help and now more than ever children with hearing loss are able to live full and successful lives. The first step is to meet with a medical practitioner who may refer your child for tests which help determine hearing levels in infants or children. No child is too young to receive a thorough hearing evaluation. In fact, hearing assessment can even be completed at birth.

While simple hearing screenings may be conducted by nurses or trained volunteers, a complete assessment of hearing in a child should only be completed by an audiologist.

The purpose of the audiological evaluation is to determine if a hearing loss exists in one or both ears, to what degree, and to help determine the type of hearing loss. Test results are recorded on an audiogram.

COMMUNICATION MILESTONES

The cochlea which is the sensory organ of hearing, attains full adult size and enables the child to hear by the 20th week of pregnancy. This means that children can be used to the sound of their mothers and other voices even before they are born. It is therefore possible for the child to be aware of music and other sounds which can prove soothing when the child is born as they are associated with the protected life in-utero.

After birth, a newborn child's cochlear sensitivity is similar to adults, but babies must learn how to use their hearing to form the foundations of communication.

YOUR CHILD'S SPEECH AND LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT (AGE DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES)

The following milestones are rough "rules of thumb" for the majority of children. If your child is more than 2-3 months delayed compared to the age-groups mentioned below, it might indicate hearing loss or delayed speech-language development.

9 months:
Demonstrate an understanding of simple words "mommy," "daddy," "no," "bye-bye."

10 months:
Babbling should sound "speech like," with single syllables strung together ("da-da-da-da").The first recognizable words emerge at about this time.

1 year:
One or more real words spoken

18 months:
Understand simple phrases, retrieve familiar objects on command (without gestures) and point to body parts. Also should have a spoken vocabulary between 20 and 50 words and use short phrases ("no more," "go out," "mommy up").

24 months:
Spoken vocabulary should be at least 150 words, coupled with the emergence of simple two word sentences. Most speech should be understandable to adults who are not with the child daily. Toddlers also should be able to sit and listen to read-aloud picture books.

3 to 5 years:
Spoken language should be used constantly to express wants, reflect emotions, convey information and ask questions. A preschooler should understand nearly all that is said. Vocabulary grows from 1000 to 2000 words which are linked in complex and meaningful sentences. All speech sounds should be clear and understandable by the end of the preschool period.

LOCALISATION
One of the earliest and easiest auditory skills to observe in your baby is localization, the ability to pinpoint the source of a sound. Because we hear through two ears (binaurally), we can localize sounds with extreme accuracy.

OBSERVING YOUR CHILD'S LOCALISATION ABILITY
In general, newborns will move or widen their eyes when they hear a sound, this is known as the startle reflex. Any loud sound should induce this reflex. When your infant gets older, about five or six months, you can better observe a true localization response by making soft sounds behind or to the side of your infant while your baby is looking straight ahead. (Be sure you are out of view when making the sounds!) A soft rattle, shake or a whisper should prompt your baby to turn his or her head toward the sound.

While we expect infants to startle when presented with very loud sounds, it is most important to see how well your baby responds to soft sounds (such as the speech sound "s").

During the first year, your baby will refine listening skills and should alert to and look for the sources of common sounds around the home, such as a ringing doorbell or telephone, slamming door, children playing, a musical toy and speech

TRUST YOUR INTUITION
You should trust your intuition if you suspect your child has trouble hearing. If in doubt, make an appointment to see an audiologist or consult your family doctor to arrange a hearing test.

A child is never too young to have their hearing tested, and studies have shown that the sooner a child is fitted with hearing aids, the better their language skills can develop.

A hearing test is a simple and painless way to check whether your child is getting the absolute most out of the world around him or her.

MORE ABOUT HOW A CHILD'S HEARING LOSS IS DIAGNOSED AND HOW TO PROCEED AFTER THE DIAGNOSIS
The diagnosis process is there to confirm or dismiss your suspicions regarding your child’s hearing. Following several tests or perhaps several appointments, your audiologist or physician will provide you with the results of your child’s tests and a diagnosis.

You will be told of the type of hearing loss (conductive, sensorineural or mixed), degree of hearing loss (mild to profound) and whether one or both ears are affected. A prognosis, describing the expected change in the hearing loss over time should also be provided.

INFORMATION IS IMPORTANT
Regardless of the amount of information you may be given, your audiologist or physician will gladly supplement this by providing you with facts about hearing loss. Further discussion will focus on essential information which will assist you in deciding the best course of action in order to increase your child’s quality of life.

TYPICAL REACTIONS
Although you may have suspected your child’s hearing loss, its confirmation typically comes as a shock. Some parents may blame themselves and experience feelings of despair.

Others may deny or be unable to come to terms with the impairment. These reactions are quite normal. A certain amount of healing and acceptance must therefore occur to prepare for the times ahead.

Many of these emotions may arise from unanswered questions. Often, the answers to these questions and awareness of the solutions available can be a source of great comfort.

Therefore, talk about it to anyone whom you may feel will shed some light on the subject or simply be there to listen to your concerns. Such questions as "Will my child’s life be hampered by the hearing loss?", "Will my child speak normally?" are quite typical.

REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE NOT ALONE
There are vast resources available to you and your child.

You may wish to talk to your audiologist, physician, other parents or educators or other hearing impaired children, or even individuals who themselves were diagnosed with hearing loss during childhood.

Not only can these people help to answer your questions and address your concerns, but their stories may also help give you a positive perspective on the entire matter.

Ask your hearing healthcare professional to direct you to organisations for hearing impaired people in your area

 

 
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