First series of hearing loss in your child: When parents are told that their child has hearing loss, many a times they are lost about what they should do next. What are the management steps that parents should take to help their child?
Knowledge is power
There is nothing more important than finding out every detail of the problem that your child has. Feel free to ask your audiologist or doctor, how they test your child and what is the purpose of each test done. Confirm how reliable were the tests done. Next ask the exact nature of the hearing loss as it would be crucial on deciding what the next step would be.
If it is a conductive hearing loss, whereby the problem is either on the outer ear or the middle ear, the problem might be cured by a medical doctor. If it is a sensorineural hearing loss, determine whether it is a permanent hearing loss or is there a chance of a cure.
The audiologist should be able to advice you on this. Remember, you have the right to have a second opinion. You can ask the audiologist to provide you a copy of all the results, a report for records and also reference if a second opinion is sought.
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You should also find out the sounds that your child could still hear. Contrary to common perception, it is rare for us to find an individual who does not have any hearing at all. In fact, most children with hearing loss have a degree of residual hearing. Knowing the types of sounds your child can hear as well as the level of loudness is important to help him communicate. Even for temporary hearing loss, it is important to know the communication strategies that you would need in order to help your child through this trying period.
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The Malaysian Association of Speech-Language and Hearing (MASH), the professional association for audiologists and speech language pathologists in it’s guideline states that all children with hearing loss of 25dBHL or more should be considered for hearing aid fitting. Various researches worldwide also indicate that a child who receives optimum amplification and rehabilitation early has the potential of developing speech and language that are similar to children with normal hearing levels.
In most cases of permanent hearing loss, your audiologist would recommend that your child should be fitted with hearing aids to help him/her hear. The first thing that we should know about hearing aids are that they help your child to hear by making sounds louder however they will not cure hearing loss. Your child needs to be trained to hear with the hearing aids as amplification alone is not sufficient to help your child understand sounds and language.
Technology in amplification has been improving tremendously. It is important that you know the difference between the various technologies available before deciding on which hearing aids are the best for your child. Most audiologists would recommend digital hearing aids compared to analogue hearing aids for your child. A complete discussion on the differences and benefits of these technologies would require an entire article. Your audiologist would be more than happy to explain to you about them.
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Another question that you would be asking yourself would be whether one hearing aid is enough or should you get a pair. For children with hearing loss in both ears, the best benefit would be amplification in both ears. This is to maximize their learning potential as well as to ensure that sounds are as natural as they can be. Wearing a single hearing aid when both ears have hearing loss is similar to using a monocle instead of your spectacles. An adult who has acquired speech and language might be able to cope but a child who is learning would struggle with a single hearing aid.
If your child has severe to profound hearing loss and gets insufficient amplification even from the most powerful hearing aids, then a cochlear implant might be beneficial. Again, please remember that a cochlear implant is a device that helps your child to hear and a lot of rehabilitation needs to be carried out before they could listen and understand speech as well as proceed to speak. This is true with both hearing aids and cochlear implants.
Next up on Health Tips by Teleme, the second series on Hearing Loss in Your Child: Communication and Assistive Listening Devices.
Ear, Nose & Throat Surgeon
Mr. Saravanan Selanduray