What should you know about your child’s hearing?
There are around 50,000 children with hearing loss in the UK, with half of those born with hearing loss whilst the other half lose their hearing during childhood. Duncan Collet-Fenson, Audiologist & MD of Aston Hearing tells us what we need to know
Our ability to hear is an essential part of understanding the world around us and it is critical for the development of a child’s speech. Even a minor hearing problem in a young child may affect their language, development, confidence and education. One problem is those hearing problems may not always be obvious though, and a child’s ability to hear may appear to change with their environment.
Treatment is far more effective if problems are detected and dealt with early on, including ensuring your child has access to any support services and hearing technology they may need.
The Top Ten Things You Should Know about your Child’s Hearing
All children in this country are offered a hearing screen in the first few days after birth so any hearing problems can be identified and supported early on. Their hearing should then be tested again at around 2.5 years old and then again before starting school. If you have any concerns with your child’s hearing in the meanwhile, or after this time, then it is best to seek help from your GP or audiologist as soon as possible.
How can you tell if your child has a hearing issue? Your child may have hearing loss if they exhibit these behaviours:-
- Being difficult to understand
- Speaking more loudly or quietly
- Asking you to repeat what you are saying or struggling to hear people far away
- Turning the TV or music very loud
- Being easily distracted when people are talking to them
- Unexplained tiredness and irritability.
- In babies, early signs will include being startled by loud noises, being unable to hear different pitches and tones, not recognising a parent’s voice or different vowel sounds.
Temporary hearing loss can be caused by an ear infection which is common in babies and small children. They often follow a cold and a baby or toddler may pull or rub at an ear or have a fever, may cry more or be more irritable, have difficulty feeding, be restless at night and have a cough. Consult your doctor if the symptoms do not settle in a couple of days or if you are worried.
Glue Ear & Grommets
Glue ear is when the middle part of the ear fills up with fluid, blocking the Eustachian tube, can cause earache, pain and even tinnitus, and occurs more often in children. Sometimes it is suggested that children may ‘grow out of it’ but for recurrent episodes of glue ear, grommets are a good option, particularly if these episodes are occurring during your child’s crucial speech and language developmental stages. Grommets are tiny temporary tubes placed in a child’s ear to help drain and stop a repeated build-up of fluid by keeping the eardrum open. Your child can go swimming with grommets, however, the ears need to remain completely free from water so they should swim with earplugs and a swimming cap and thoroughly dry their ears after being in the water.
It is best to avoid flying with an ear infection
The swelling and congestion within the Eustachian tubes combined with flying at a high altitude mean that your eardrum will be under a lot of increased pressure. The increased and continual pressure on the eardrum can cause it to rupture. At best, the experience is still likely to be very painful and uncomfortable and is therefore not encouraged.
Never ever remove ear wax from your child’s ear
Nothing, including cotton buds, should be used to clean excess wax from the ear. It must be done professionally. Inserting cotton buds within the ear pushes excess wax even deeper into the ear canal, and can lead to impacted earwax, hearing loss or even a burst or damaged eardrum. It can be tempting to try and remove the wax from your child’s ear yourself, but this can permanently damage your child’s ear. Their ears are even more sensitive than an adult.
How to deal with minor hearing/ listening issues
Sometimes children (and adults) have minor hearing or listening issues. Ensure you have your child’s full attention when speaking to them by turning off the television or music to avoid distractions. Hearing from a distance can also a challenge – your child can hear best when you are a couple of feet away. Attract their attention before you start speaking and standing in front of them is always the best.
The best ways to protect your child’s hearing are:-
- Always wear a helmet when playing contact sports or riding a bike
- Treat sinus infections early
- Have a healthy diet
- Protect their ears in loud environments
- Get enough sleep
- Get their hearing regularly tested and if you suspect a problem. Don’t leave it.
- Maintain a healthy weight
Types of Hearing Loss
There are three types of hearing loss in children – congenital which means it was present at the birth; acquired is hearing loss which developed after the birth, and transient is temporary hearing loss most likely because of an ear infection or a blockage in the ear. There are many forms of treatment for childhood hearing loss including hearing aids, cochlear implants, speech therapy and assistive listening devices depending on their needs. It is crucial to get an early diagnosis.
Sudden Hearing Loss
If you experience any sort of sudden hearing loss, this is a medical emergency. Sudden hearing loss may be due to wax but on rare occasions, it can be due to a viral attack of the inner ear which requires immediate medical attention. In the event of a sudden change in your hearing seek medical attention to reduce the risk of permanent hearing loss.
More information here