By Bridgid M. Whitford Au.D, CCC-A, Director of
Hearing Services, Cleveland Hearing & Speech Center
Can your baby hear you when you whisper “I love you?” Does your little one try to say it back to you? Being able to hear is essential for developing speech and language. However, in Ohio 1.5 in 1,000 babies are born with hearing loss. In addition, there are even more children who are at risk for developing hearing loss in the toddler/preschool years. The incidence of hearing loss rises to 3-6 in 1,000 by the time a child reaches school age.
Two large, red flags that a child may have a hearing loss are if the parents have concerns regarding their child’s hearing or if the child has a speech, language or developmental delay.
Parents typically become concerned when their child does not do the things that other children are doing. A diagnostic hearing test should be performed on any child whose parents are worried there is a hearing loss or a speech language or developmental delay.
Other warning signs parents may see if their child has a hearing loss include:
- Not startling to very loud sounds
- Hard time finding the source of a sound (localizing)
- Seems very visually focused — looks closely at faces of people speaking
- Does not consistently respond when name is called or seems to “ignore” you at times
- Says “huh” or “what” frequently
- Sits close to the TV or turns the volume louder than is comfortable for others
- Can only use the phone on one ear
- Teachers/grandparents or others close to the child are concerned
If you see any of these warning signs, a diagnostic audiologic evaluation is recommended.
In addition, there are some conditions that increase a child’s risk of developing (after birth) a permanent hearing loss. Children with the conditions below should have their hearing checked regularly by an audiologist. Even if an initial hearing test shows normal hearing, they should be tested periodically (typically every six months to a year) until speech and language develops as normal and they can self report any change in hearing.
- Family history of permanent childhood hearing loss
- Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) stay of more than 5 days
- Assisted ventilation (ECMO), exposure to ototoxic medications (gentimycin and tobramycin) or loop diuretics (furosemide/Lasix) in NICU even if less than 5 day stay
- Hyperbilirubinemia that requires exchange transfusion
- In utero infections, such as cytomegalovirus (CMV), herpes, rubella, syphilis, and toxoplasmosis
- Craniofacial anomalies, including those that involve the pinna, ear canal, ear tags, ear pits, and temporal bone anomalies.
- Syndromes associated with hearing loss such as neurofibromatosis, osteopetrosis, Usher, Waardenburg, Alport, Pendred, and Jervell and Lange-Nielson
- Neurodegenerative disorders
- Post natal infections such as herpes and varicella
- Bacterial and viral meningitis
- Head trauma, especially basal skull/temporal bone fracture that requires hospitalization
If you have any concerns about your child’s hearing, speech, or language development, contact an audiologist at the Cleveland Hearing & Speech Center at 216-231-8787 or visit www.chsc.org. Early intervention means better outcomes for your child.