One of the most critical part of a child’s social, emotional, and cognitive growth involves their sense of hearing. Being able to hear properly hugely influences the way they develop their ability to learn at school and function socially. Imagine yourself as a child, being unable to hear the comforting words of your parents, the barking of your pet dog, the reminiscent songs on the Sunday radio, or the laughter of your fellow playmates. It’s just not complete without these sounds.
The condition of hearing loss doesn’t have to be severe to greatly affect a child’s growth. Just a small difference will already cause one to miss out on a lot of things. So, what can you do?
What causes hearing loss in children?
If your child has been diagnosed with hearing loss, remember that the important thing is you’ve caught it early. You might be wondering what causes hearing loss in children. Your child has higher risk of having hearing loss if he or she:
- Was born prematurely
- Had high bilirubin or the orange-yellow pigment that is made during the normal breakdown of red blood cells
- Was given hearing loss-inducing medications
- Has a family history of hearing loss
- Had infections such as meningitis
- Was exposed to very loud sounds even for a brief period of time
What should I look out for?
Keeping an eye out for hearing loss in your children would take time. You have to watch them as newborns, as babies, and even as children who can already walk on their own.
Infants who have healthy hearing show the following signs:
- Startle or jump when they hear sudden loud noises
- Recognize their parents’ voice as early as reaching three months
- Respond to a sound by turning their eyes or head as early as reaching six months
- Can imitate simple words before turning a year old
As they grow into toddlers, you need to keep an eye out for the following:
- Speech that is limited, poor, or no speech at all
- Increased TV volume
- Failure to respond to speech or inappropriate response
There are hearing tests for newborn babies in the Philippines. If there are any signs of hearing problems, this is the best way to go about it. Keep in mind that it’s vital to catch it early on before it develops.
What tests can my child undergo?
There are two types of screening tests for newborn babies. Both of them are painless, quick, and can even be done while the baby is sleeping.
1. Otoacoustic Emission Test (OEA)
This test uses a tiny plug that is placed in the baby’s ear. This plug has a microphone that records emissions of the normal ear as a reaction to the sounds. If there are no emissions, this shows that the baby is suffering from hearing loss.
2. Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR)
This test uses wires that are attached to the baby’s scalp. As the baby is sleeping, clicking sounds are made through tiny earphones in the baby’s ears. What will be measured is the brain’s response to the sounds. This, like OEA, is very painless and can take only a few minutes.
Why is it important for newborn babies to undergo hearing test?
1. Symptoms of hearing impairment in infants are not visible
Disorders don’t have symptoms and can only be detected through certain tests.
2. Hearing is essential for a child to be able to talk
The first three years of life can be considered the most vital period for the brain to acquire speech and language skills, as speaking is often learned by babies through imitation. Keeping an eye out for certain tell-tale signs is a good way to be ahead of the development of hearing loss.
3. Overall development can be affected by mild hearing loss
Hearing is only one of the fundamental skills needed not just by a child but also by adults. Hearing loss can greatly affect their speech, language, academic, and psychosocial development.
Did you know?
Under the Republic Act 9709, all Filipino babies are required to get tested for their hearing? This act can also be called “Act That Establishes the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening for the Prevention, Early Diagnosis, and Intervention of Hearing Loss”. It states that before a baby is discharged from the hospital, he/she must undergo a hearing screening test first. For those babies not born in hospitals, they are required to be screened within the first three months of life.
Hearing loss is not something that is foreign to scientists and doctors. Solutions have been found to help those who are experiencing hearing loss such as the use of hearing aids. But don’t wait before it even worsens and cause more complications to one’s development. Again, early detection is better.