At about 11 months, I was diagnosed with a rare brain cancer. I am fortunate enough to have survived childhood cancer, but one complication was that I became deaf in my left ear. Growing up, I struggled with only being able to hear out of one ear, but I attended many speech therapists, doctors, etc. so I would be able to learn and develop like any other child. Up until 5th grade, my parents had a microphone/speaker system installed in my classrooms so I would be able to keep up in class. Today, I am 22 years old and my hearing loss is rarely noticeable. While my hearing loss was not preventable or irreparable, I was able to develop like any other child because, thanks to my parents, I received intervention at a very young age!
Speech and language skills are some of the first things a child learns in their life, and hearing is a crucial part of this development. In Utah, all newborns are required to have a hearing screening before they leave the hospital. Parents receive the results immediately with a "pass" or "refer." While your child may pass their first hearing test, it is important that you know the hearing milestones, because even if a baby babbles or reacts to loud noises, they could have hearing loss:
- After Birth: Baby can be startled by a sudden noise; they may open their eyes widely or become stiff when they hear a loud noise.
- 1 month: Baby can notice long noises--like a vacuum. They can listen to the noise and they are aware of when it stops.
- 4 months: Baby will smile at the sound of your voice. They will turn their head or eyes at you if you are speaking to them from the side.
- 7 months: Baby will turn immediately when they hear your voice from across the room; unless they are busy with something else.
- 9 months: Baby will look in response to quiet sounds made out of their sight. They should enjoy babbling
- 12 months: Baby should show some response to their name or familiar words.
- Older children: They will not respond to talking or noises always and may seem inattentive and they may ask to repeat what you said. They will play the TV louder and show difficulty hearing people from far away.
Hearing loss for your child can mean they are not understanding speech and language like other children. It can be slight, mild, moderate, severe or profound hearing loss. This depends on how well a person can hear frequencies or intensities which are measured by decibels (dB) and hertz (Hz). It can occur in both areas and may occur in both ears or one or the other. A child is considered deaf when their hearing loss is greater than 90 decibels. If your child has experienced hearing loss, early intervention can help assure that your child's development stays on track.
Common reasons for hearing loss in children:
- Ear Infections
- Congenial causes (genetics or sickness during pregnancy)
- Chicken pox
- Head injury
- Noise exposure
How to protect your child's ears/development:
If you have any concerns at all that you child may not be hearing correctly, visit your doctor immediately. Some other things you can do:
- Have your child wear ear protectors if you are going to be out somewhere loud (sports games, parades, fireworks, loud music, etc)
- Keep your child's ears dry while bathing or swimming to avoid ear infection
- Attend your regular check ups to prevent any illnesses
- Stay healthy during pregnancy
- Early Intervention- Make sure you are checking the hearing milestones often! If you have any concerns, contact your doctor immediately. If your child does suffer from hearing loss, remember there are things you can do while they are young to help with their development.