Hearing is a very important aspect of very child’s overall development as it helps the child learn and understand its environment. Hearing impairment of any kind can lead to lack of language skills. Hence is necessary to identify the problem as early as infancy. Hearing problems manifest differently, the extent and severity of which may vary in each child.
Causes of hearing loss: Causes of hearing loss in a child are many
Genetic Factors: According to WHO these are responsible for over 40% of hearing impairment cases.
Ear infections: These could occur due to problems faced by mother during birth, viral infections in childhood like mumps measles etc.
Disease of the Ear
Medicines given in early childhood
Very early signs may not be a sign of immediate concern as you can visit your health care giver at any time for a hearing test. However, it is advisable to watch out for these signs nonetheless!
Let us run through the warning signs that prevail at each stage of development since the child’s birth
Newborn to 3 Months
Does your little one startle at loud noises like vessels falling, honking in the immediate vicinity, loud thunder? If not then you need to be alert. They should also be able to recognize familiar voices like that of mummy or daddy. They will turn their heads towards the sound. They should also be soothed by familiar sounds made by mommy and daddy like…ahhhaa, ooooo, aahhoooo. By 3 months they should be good to respond to soft music. If none of these prevail than here is your red flag number 1!
4 to 8 months
Take a rattle and shake it near her ear. She should ideally turn her head towards the sound. She should be making noises of her own by this age and enjoy the sound of those. For example, she may vigorously shake her hand toy or a squeezy and enjoy the sounds that they make. Another form of impairment at this age would be that she responds to some noises but not all. Right around 6 months of age they start babbling back at familiar voices like that of mommy daddy siblings etc. She should respond to certain vibrations like those typically present in the baby chair. If any of these are missing it is red flag 2 for you!
9 to 12 months
By now she should respond to her name. Also when they babble their pitch should fluctuate. She can pronounce small syllables like mmmmm …bbbb, say ma-ma, da-da etc. She should respond to music physically as in my moving jumping or dancing. If it is none of the above then its red flag number 3!
Although you don’t need to panic if you see the signs mentioned in step one, it is not advisable for you to wait all the way to step 3. Early Identification and Intervention is critical. If signs have been identified in the first three months then the first thing to do is get regular hearing screen done. Research has proven that a hearing issue can directly affect speech. If the problem is detected at a later stage then speech therapy is recommended.
What can you do to support your child if the problem is detected?
- Actively communicate with your little one. Read a book to her speak slowly and clearly.
- Do not subject them to loud noises like those from loudspeaker etc.
- If the problem is detected they might have to wear hearing aid, something they might protest. But encouraging them and being with them all the way is necessary.
- You can enrol your child for intervention sessions where certified care givers help children in hearing as well as speech therapy.
It is also possible that hearing impairment can occur later in life in children so it is recommended that they are not exposed to loud noises.
The sense of hearing can definitely be improved, of not completely healed, provided parents are vigilant and provide requisite intervention or treatment at the right time.