Hearing loss is the most prevalent childhood birth defect. Each year 12,000 babies are born with some degree of hearing difficulty. Rough estimates of the percentage of children under the age of 18 who have a mild to severe hearing trouble range from 8 to 15 percent.
All babies should be screened for hearing loss before leaving their birth hospital. The test is easy, safe, and completely painless.
The Center for Disease Control advocates an approach for identifying and treating hearing loss called the “1-3-6 Plan.” Babies should be screened before they are one month of age, preferably before they leave the hospital. If a child does not pass the hearing screening, a full hearing test should be performed before the age of three months. If this testing reveals a hearing problem, it is critical to obtain appropriate services before the child is six months old.
Children can develop hearing problems after birth, so it’s a good idea to have your child’s hearing tested at each doctor’s appointment. Hearing loss is easy to overlook, so it is important for parents to be aware of the subtle signs of hearing problems.
There is a critical period for speech and language development that begins at birth and continues through early childhood. Children who have untreated hearing loss find it much more difficult to learn to communicate, speak, read, and write.
Accurate perception of speech sounds lays the groundwork for successful reading. Children who have hearing difficulties generally have some degree of difficulty interpreting speech sounds and developing the speech to symbol relationships necessary for reading.
Language skills are affected as well. Children who have hearing problems have difficulty learning grammar, vocabulary, and critical thinking skills, as well as other essential language skills.
Approximately one-third of students with hearing loss are retained at least once during their school careers. Perhaps the most unfortunate fact is a child who is deaf or hard of hearing can suffer many unpleasant experiences that negatively impact the development of healthy self-esteem.
For more info:
For a pod cast from the Center for Disease Control on early detection of speech and hearing problems
Preschools and day car centers in Los Angeles can schedule free hearing screenings for children by contacting the John Tracy Clinic at (213) 748-5481. More info can be obtained here.
To see a video of a hearing test being administered to an adult.
Facts About Hearing Loss in Children, Amie Gordon-Langbein, D.O.
* image source: AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young