Hearing impairment in children- signs and finding help

I love listening to music. It soothes my nerves. It makes me happy and want to dance.

I love talking to my family and friends. I can share with them my worries or my excitement.

I always look forward to talking with my parents back home, by phone or via messenger or face time.

I’m lucky because my sense of hearing is 100% okay.

I know most of us feel that way, too.

Our sense of hearing is really important in how we interact with others. Right?

Our world will be so quiet when we have hearing impairment or we just hear muffled sounds, perhaps. We will be missing lots of stuff around us that we’re supposed to enjoy.

 

Hearing impairment in children

 

Now, let’s talk about hearing impairment in children, what are the signs and how do we go as parents and caregivers in finding help?

CHLOE, a student who is now in high school, started kindergarten in a regular class. The teacher thought she was deaf and mute because she didn’t hear her talking at all.

Eventually after 2 years, she was moved to the Special Education ( SPED ) class in her school at age eight.

Soon after, the teacher heard her talk for the first time when she was bullied by a classmate. She was stammering and talking in phrases.

Teacher Bing started her with one-on-one lessons and eventually, she learned to talk in sentences and read on her own.

She was fitted with a hearing aid at this time, as well.

After 2 years in SPED, she was mainstreamed to Grade one and she continued to excel in school.

Last school year, she graduated with honors in Grade 9. She is a graceful dancer and an artist as well, she has a special talent in drawing. I guess all these talents were enhanced with early intervention of her hearing impairment.

Luckily for Chloe, the first teacher recognized right away the need for her to be guided and taught in the Special Education classroom so she was started on one-on-one lessons, thus she was able to catch up sooner.

Referral and assessment were also done so she was fitted with hearing aids which really boosted her learning and she was able to cope up well from then on.

What are the signs of hearing impairment?

Parents need to be very observant of their kids as they grow and develop, so they can be referred and have proper evaluation in a timely manner.

Look out for these signs of hearing impairment in your kids. They may look and grow physically like normal kids but have these unusual signs.

  • Seems too quiet as a baby, does not get startled with loud sounds nor gets soothed by soft sounds
  • Sleeps soundly in a noisy room
  • Delayed language development, like no babbling at 2 months or not speaking at age 3
  • Talks in phrases and cannot express themselves well
  • Have problems with hearing soft sounds
  • Often asks you to repeat what you are saying
  • Confused where sounds are coming from or cannot identify who is talking to them
  • Poor vocabulary, cannot understand even simple words at 11 to 12 months
  • Struggles to hear when several people are talking at the same time
  • Poor social interaction. Because he cannot communicate properly, kids don’t like to play with him. No friendships are formed. They may be bullied as well.
  • Teachers might think they are mute because they hardly speak at all when they start school.
  • No response to playing music, somebody talking to them, or to any sound at all.
  • Wants the television or radio louder than usual
  • Does not understand directions

Causes of hearing impairment in children

CONGENITAL– born with hearing impairment.

  • This could be genetic, meaning, somebody in the family has it, especially one or both parents.
  • It could be one of the characteristics of a genetic syndrome, like Down syndrome.
  • Other congenital causes include maternal illnesses during pregnancy like German measles, maternal diabetes, and toxemia during pregnancy ( mother has abnormally high blood pressure )
  • When the baby is born prematurely or had birth complications like difficult delivery leading to anoxia, or lack of oxygen, they can also have hearing impairment at birth.
  • A mother’s exposure to certain drugs during pregnancy

ACQUIRED- noted after birth or while your child is growing up

  • Ear infection– usually kids with on and off otitis media or infection of the middle ear and not treated right away or not at all.
  • Trauma affecting the ears or the brain, like accidents or head injury
  • Infections like meningitis, measles, encephalitis, chicken pox, mumps, or influenza
  • Noise exposure, for example if the family lives close to a factory with very loud noise

Finding help

As parents, when you suspect something is wrong with your child or if you observe one or some of the above signs, or he is not developing like kids his age, always ask for help right away.

Just follow your instinct and schedule assessments.

Timely evaluation and proper intervention really makes a big difference. These kids have the capacity to develop and catch up when helped early on, just like Chloe mentioned above.

Evaluation of an ear doctor or otolaryngologist is vital

Assessment is the very first important step.

Ask his Pediatrician or your family doctor to refer your child to an audiologist who will assess the severity of hearing loss and who will in turn refer him to an ENT specialist or otolaryngologist for proper evaluation and further surgical management, if needed. 

Audiologist and otolaryngologist assessment are vital for hearing impaired kids

A speech language pathologist is an important part of the team as well, who measures the specific speech and language skills of your child and recommends or provides remedial programs as needed.

  • For babies, the newborn hearing screening test is a quick and painless examination and is usually done after the baby is two days old.
  • Fitting of hearing aids, if needed  is set up by the audiologist after proper evaluation.
  • Cochlear implants for eligible kids are done after evaluation of an otolaryngologist.

Watch this video about IRELAND, who in 2017, was born with profound hearing loss and had cochlear implants before her first birthday, thus her family is so excited that she will hear them sing ” Happy Birthday ” for the first time.

  • Communication or music therapy augments the hearing aid or the cochlear implants because these do not restore their hearing 100% like normal kids.
  • Special Education could be started on one-on-one lessons, like what Chloe got, as discussed above.

Teacher Law of the Romblon East Central School SPED program had 7 hearing impaired students last school year, 4 of them were already mainstreamed in the regular elementary but he still follows them up after school and 3 were still under his care.

These kids started with SPED from 6 to 10 years old, they were assessed by audiologists and fitted with hearing aids, except one. When they started school, they were unable to write nor communicate properly.

Teacher Law gradually and patiently taught them so they are now literates and able to communicate with the help of sign language.

CJ is one of the hearing impaired students who started at SPED at 6 years old, and was mainstreamed to regular elementary after 3 years.

With SPED he learned how to talk and communicate with the aid of sign language. He is now in grade 10 and coping well in regular school. He was also a dancer while in the elementary, a skill that he learned because of early intervention.

  • Family support is likewise very important. Interact with your child as much as possible, extra care like cooing more, engaging more and of course, support in all interventions. Expose him to more sounds like music and talking to him at all times.
  • Sign language is another thing that is needed for your hearing impaired child. Let him learn how to communicate with sign language to avoid frustrations. Even with hearing aids or cochlear implants, they are not able to hear clearly like normal kids so, sign language is still very helpful for them. This can be learned in school or with private lessons.

So, again I want to emphasize that observations by parents are really important for our growing special kids so, if you feel that your child has hearing loss, which could be partial or total, schedule him for assessment as soon as possible.

When diagnosed really early, interventions are started and these kids can catch up with their language development and even excel in school, like Chloe and CJ and the other kids mentioned above.

Ireland, who had cochlear implants just before her first birthday, has already shown great improvement on the way she plays and it will continue on for her to develop her language just like normal kids.

As parents and caregivers, let us all be vigilant in the growing and development of our kids.

All newborns need to be submitted for the Neonatal hearing screening test and if there is something abnormal, then they will be followed up closely or intervened at the right time. We learned this from the experience of Ireland’s parents.

Hearing impaired kids have all the right to hear our conversations, especially the voice of their parents, the soft hustle of the wind, or the music of their favorite singers, so they can dance gracefully with the beat of the music.

Let us not wait until they start school and get bullied because they sound weird when talking.

After all, our world is happier with music and open communication.

 

Do you have a child with hearing impairment? Is it congenital or acquired? How did you help your child overcome his disability? Please share your journey with us. Post your comments below.

 

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