Having adequate hearing at a young age is critical for young children for the development of speech and language. My goal is to provide options to enable children to achieve their full potential in communication and interactions with family, friends and in school.
What is hearing loss?
One to three out of every 1,000 children are born with some degree of hearing loss.
Many of the complications of hearing loss can be prevented if your child is diagnosed early and appropriate treatment begins before your child is 6 months old.
Types of hearing loss
Hearing loss in children can be present at birth (congenital) or acquired after birth. The primary types of hearing loss are:
Conductive hearing loss – A reduction of sound being sent to the inner ear caused by a problem in the outer or middle ear. Conductive hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss in children.
Sensorineural hearing loss – This type of hearing loss is related to damage or a defect in the inner ear or in the neural connection to the brain. In rare cases, hearing loss can be a result of a nerve dysfunction known as auditory neuropathy, in which sounds enter the inner ear normally, but the signals between the ear and brain are impaired.
Mixed hearing loss – Hearing loss can also be a mix of both of these types, affecting both the inner ear and outer and middle ear.
Causes of hearing loss
Conductive hearing loss
- Abnormalities of the external ear
- Abnormalities of the external ear canal
- Abnormalities of the eardrum
- Abnormalities of the bones of the middle ear
- Ear wax blockage
- Middle ear infection
- Foreign objects in the ear canal
- Perforation of the eardrum with the eustachian tube
- Tumors of the middle ear
Sensorineural hearing loss
- Genetic factors and syndromes
- Low birth weight or prematurity
- Infection present at birth
- Maternal diabetes
- Complications associated with Rhesus (Rh) factor in the blood
- Loud noise exposure
- Head trauma
- Damage from medications that are harmful to the ears
Symptoms of hearing loss
If your child is born with hearing loss, it’s likely the condition will be noticed and diagnosed at the hospital. If your child develops hearing loss later, you may be one of the first people to recognize your child is having an issue with hearing or understanding speech.
You may suspect your child has a hearing loss if:
- Your infant is not startled at loud noises or fails to respond to the sound of a familiar voice
- Your baby doesn’t turn toward an object that’s making noise, such as a rattle or other noisy toy, and doesn’t turn toward you when hearing you speak
- Your baby doesn’t make babbling sounds
- Your toddler doesn’t point to familiar objects when named, follow simple commands, use several different words or listen to stories and songs
- A child who has difficulty only in noisy environments or who has difficulty locating where sounds are coming from may have a subtle or one-sided hearing loss
Diagnosing hearing loss
Early intervention and detection of hearing loss is important to maximize a child’s spoken speech and language development. Every baby born in a hospital in the United States is screened for hearing loss before leaving the hospital.
Infants who do not pass newborn screening will require further diagnostic hearing testing before they are 3 months old. When necessary, infants should be enrolled in early intervention programs by 6 months of age.
Dr. Kopelovich’s team provides comprehensive hearing evaluations for infants, children and teens. A wide range of hearing tests can be used to determine how your child hears at any age. Some tests require participation and some do not.
Tests may include:
- Otoacoustic emissions to look at the response of the hair cells of the cochlea
- Auditory brainstem response to look at the response of the auditory nerve and brainstem
- Tympanometry to look at the movement of the eardrum
- Visual reinforcement audiometry to test infants and children with special needs
- Conditioned play audiometry to test toddlers and young children
- Conventional audiometry to test children who can participate more easily
Treating hearing loss
Treatment of your child’s hearing loss depends on a variety of factors including the:
- Cause of your child’s hearing loss
- Severity of hearing loss
- Age/development of your child
- Your family’s input
Treatment may include:
Use of hearing aids
These devices can amplify and change sounds to maximize audibility of speech signals. Talk to your child’s doctor to learn if a hearing aid could help your child.
A surgically implanted device may be anchored to bone for children with severe conductive hearing loss or who have one-sided hearing loss.
A surgically implanted device converts auditory to electrical signals that are delivered to the inner ear to give the perception of sound. Only certain children are candidates for this type of device.
Dr. Kopelovich works with a team to develop the best treatment for your child. Our team includes audiologist and speech-language pathologists.
- Audiologists: Doctors of audiology that specialize in the evaluation and management of hearing and balance problems in people of all ages. Audiologists fit and manage hearing aids and other assistive devices.
- Speech-language pathologists: Clinical professionals who evaluate and treat children with difficulties with speech, language and swallowing.