How To Determine If Your Child Needs A Hearing Aid

Ways parents can tell if their child may be suffering from hearing loss, and how to get him tested for a hearing aid.

"Turn that music down!" So runs the cry in most homes with teenagers. The mother's concern, of course, is that her child's hearing will be damaged from listening to too much loud music. That risk exists, of course, but how can a parent determine if a younger child needs a hearing aid?

The most obvious first answer, of course, is if a child's speech development seems to be delayed. However, a parent may not notice this until the child is 3 or 4 years of age, and hearing problems need to be diagnosed long before, if that is possible.

Many pediatricians will order a hearing test while a newborn is still in the hospital. If all is well, then the parent will probably want to have the child's hearing tested at the yearly doctor's visits, through age 5. If the test is abnormal, then the pediatrician will probably consult a hearing specialist, and tests will be ordered to determine if there is a structural defect within the child's ears. Treatment must begin that early for best results. If these tests are inconclusive, then the child's hearing will probably be tested again about six months later, and every six months thereafter until age 3.

Parents should also be concerned about a child's hearing if certain other risk factors are present. These include: a family history of deafness, infection, otitis media, head trauma, or a disease diagnosis.

A parent cannot determine if a child needs a hearing aid. Only a qualified specialist can do that. However, a parent can be alert to various symptoms and signs of early hearing loss and notify the child's pediatrician immediately.

Since so much of a child's early development is dependent on hearing, early intervention is crucial for a child with hearing loss. An otologist can fit the child with a hearing aid, and will probably refer the parent and child to a therapist specializing in play and development therapy for toddlers with hearing loss. This therapy will probably involve teaching the child lip reading and early sign language for both parents. Hearing aids, development therapy and surgery are all appropriate options for parents to explore in order to assist their children to develop normally.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association is one organization that offers numerous resources and a great deal of information to parents who have children with hearing loss, as well as to teachers, doctors and therapists. They have a Web presence, with many pamphlets and information cards online available for downloading. The Web site also has checklists and reference guides for parents to help determine if their child may have some hearing loss. The association also has referral services available so parents can consult experts in the hearing loss field in their area.

Even though a parent cannot determine by himself if his child needs a hearing aid, he can, and should be familiar with some of the signs of early hearing loss, and able to spot developmental delays in his child's speech and/or behavior. Early intervention is a child's best chance for receiving appropriate therapy that will enable him to live a productive, independent life.

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