Did you know that 1 in 1,000 U.S. babies is born deaf or is hearing impaired?
Hearing impairment covers the entire range of hearing loss, in degree from mild or moderate to severe and profound. Children who have the same degree of hearing loss may function quite differently from one another. One child with severe hearing impairment may be hard of hearing, while another child with severe hearing impairment may be deaf. Severe hearing losses can often go undetected until a child is 3 years old, while mild hearing losses often go undetected until ages 5 or 6.
If hearing impaired children are not identified early, it may be difficult for them to acquire language, social and learning skills that provide the foundation for schooling and success in society. With early diagnosis by an audiologic examination and the right treatment, hearing impaired children can make dramatic progress.
Certain factors can put children at high for risk for hearing loss:
- Family history of childhood hearing impairment;
- Infections during pregnancy, such as cytomegalovirus, rubella, herpes simplex, toxoplasmosis, syphilis;
- Physical malformations of the head or neck;
- Birth weight less than 1500g
- Bacterial meningitis;
- Lack of oxygen at birth.
A hearing-impaired child's main problem is learning to communicate through spoken language. Children must send and receive messages in order to communicate. In learning to talk and to understand others’ conversations, these children may not hear a message clearly, may hear it at a reduced loudness level, or may not hear it at all
These are general guidelines that can help you to detect a problem. By the ages noted, your infant or child should:
Age 3 months:
- Startle and/or awaken to loud sounds such as coughing, a dog barking or a vacuum cleaner
- Be soothed by mother’s voice
Age 6 months:
- Smile when spoken to
- Turn his or her head in search of a sound or voice
- Recognize parents’ voices
- Make cooing and babbling sounds
Age 9 months:
- Notice and search for familiar sounds
- Respond to his or her name and to the command, “No!”
Age 12 months:
- Be able to say one or two words and enjoy making sounds
- Turn head in any direction to find an interesting sound or a person talking
- Begin to respond to simple requests, such as, "Do you want more?”
Age 18 months:
- Be able to say eight to ten words, even if not clearly said
- Follow simple spoken directions
Age 2 years:
- Be able to say 20 to 25 words
- Put two words together, such as "More cookie?"
- Follow simple requests
Generally, children should make the following sounds correctly by ages:
- 3 to 4 years—m, b, n, t, p, k, d, g, w, h and vowels
- 5 to 6 years—sch, ch, l and l blends
- 7 years—v, j, th, s, z, r, s blends and r blends
Early detection of any hearing loss is the key to your baby’s growth, development and future ability to communicate. If you think your infant or child might have a hearing problem, tell your pediatrician, who can make recommendations and schedule a hearing test.
A child’s hearing can be assessed at any age, even shortly after birth by non-invasive, painless procedures. It’s a law in several states, including Pennsylvania, that babies must be screened for hearing loss at birth. Places such as Mount Nittany Medical Center have licensed audiologists who can assess hearing and middle ear function, and provide or direct parents to the appropriate care for their children.
Beverly Huff is a certified licensed audiologist at Mount Nittany Medical Center.