How is hearing impairment recognized?
This is how you will know if your child has a hearing impairment:
Diagnosis during the first year of the child’s life is critical when it comes to hearing impairment that affects the various stages of development. What are the signs that parents should pay attention to and when is it necessary to get tested?
The auditory system begins to develop in the very early stages of pregnancy, around weeks 3-6 and are formed by week 20. The system becomes functional between weeks 25-29, but the structural development is not enough. The auditory system needs regular stimulation as part of its functional maturation process.
When the baby emerges into the world, their auditory system is ready to receive a sound and respond to it, but this ability is not mature enough to deal with complex sounds (such as speech sounds or several sounds heard at the same time) and needs to be exposed to stimuli of different and varied sounds.
The first months of the baby’s life are critical in this respect and form the basis for the development of listening skills that precede the use of language. Any hearing impairment, long-term or permanent, may cause damage to the child’s functioning. Congenital hearing impairment may have consequences for the child’s development in many areas: pre-language communication skills, language and speech development, thinking and playing skills, motor skills and feeling and social-emotional development.
This is the reason for the importance of diagnosing and treating hearing impairments during the first months of life. Many studies conducted in recent years have found that the early integration of babies who are dealing with hearing impairments into an intervention program will enable them the opportunity to realize their developmental potential.
What causes hearing loss?
There are several conditions, some of which are hereditary, including various diseases, injuries or developmental problems in the auditory system, which may cause hearing problems from birth. There are also situations of acquired hearing impairment in childhood which can be temporary (such as fluid or inflammation) or permanent. It is common to divide the causes of hearing impairments in childhood as follows:
- 50% on a hereditary background
- 25% acquired following illness or trauma
- 25% unknown background.
The incidence of bilateral congenital hearing impairment is about two in 1,000 births. This prevalence rises to eighty out of 1,000 babies, if we consider the permanent significant hearing impairments that appear in at least one ear, and this prevalence increases with age.
There is still difficulty in accurately estimating the incidence of mild or unilateral disability among infants, mainly due to the fact that some of them do not come for treatment or follow-up.
In 2010, a procedure was implemented requiring all hospitals in Israel to perform hearing screening tests in the first 24 hours of a newborn’s life. If your child did not successfully pass the initial test, you will be referred for another test and if there is also a suspicion of a hearing problem, you will be referred for a comprehensive hearing diagnosis (ABR), where the function of the baby’s auditory brainstem pathways will be tested. This is done by playing sounds that go up and down in volume. This is how the child’s hearing threshold is diagnosed, by measuring the auditory nerve stimulation threshold.
If your child is diagnosed with a hearing impairment, he or she will be referred for further behavioral hearing evaluation and counseling regarding hearing rehabilitation options at Beit Micha. Integration into an intervention program under the age of one makes it possible to provide the baby with an opportunity to develop developmental skills similar to those of his or her hearing peers.
What are the signs that raise concerns about hearing impairment and require an examination?
- The baby does not wake up to loud noises in his or her environment.
- He or she is not frightened by loud or sudden noises.
- The baby does react as expected according to his or her age to the sounds in his or her environment (the parent’s voice, an opening door).
- He or she does not turns his or her head to search for a sound source around the age of six months.
- The baby does not often use his or her voice, and the variety of babbling sounds does not increase at the age of ten months.
- He or her does not try to repeat sounds heard at the age of 10-12 months.
- The baby does not begin to show understanding of simple instructions at the age of 12-15 months (for example: say hello, where is the light?).
- He or her does not develop initial words around the age of 12-15 months.
- His or her vocabulary is limited at the age of 16-18 months.
In any case where there is a concern of a hearing impairment, you should contact your pediatrician or an ENT doctor.
What is recommended to do if your child was diagnosed with a hearing impairment during a screening test?
- Get in touch with families who are willing to share their experience with you.
- Work with the professionals and accept their help.
- Acquire knowledge in the field of hearing impairment and the development of hearing, communication and language skills.
- If the baby has been diagnosed as having a disability that requires intervention – contact the center that specializes in running intervention programs for babies and young children with hearing impairment as soon as possible.
- If necessary, perform a full auditory diagnosis as soon as possible in one of the hospitals that specialize in hearing diagnosis in babies.
- Perform a repeated filtration test as soon as possible. Contact an otolaryngologist who specializes in children.