Hearing loss poses an extra challenge for growing children. But it doesn't have to hold them back from learning and communicating. With the right treatment and services, your child can learn all the skills and reach the same milestones as other kids her age.
Few parents expect their children to develop heart disease. So when her daughter Alex started gaining weight at age 7, Tammy Benton was concerned -- but not overly concerned. Working with a pediatrician, she tried to encourage Alex to eat more healthfully.
"I didn't talk 'diet' to her," recalls Benton, 46, of Essexville, Mich. Instead, she pointed her daughter to better choices such as fruit instead of candy. Alex did lose some weight but eventually gained it back. By the time she was 14, she weighed...
Early treatment is key for children with hearing loss.
"Babies’ brains develop quickly, and it’s important to stimulate those sound pathways in the brain as soon as possible," says Dale Amanda Tylor, MD, an ear, nose, and throat doctor at Washington Township Medical Foundation in Fremont, CA. "Children who are exposed to sounds earlier are more likely to develop along the same path as others their age."
Most children get hearing aids or other devices like cochlear implants. They’re electronic devices that go inside the inner ear to help the brain process sounds.
It’s never too early to start these treatments. Most states test babies for hearing loss shortly after birth. That means they can get fitted for hearing aids at just a few weeks old. Ask your child’s doctor to help you pick a certified pediatric audiologist who can help you choose the best treatment.
"Even kids with profound hearing loss can catch up with their peers by age 5 or 6 if they have cochlear implants by age 1 or 2," Tylor says.
2. Use Early Intervention Services
About 95% of parents of children with hearing loss don’t have the condition themselves. So they have a lot to learn about living with and treating it. An early intervention program helps you coordinate all the services your child will need. Babies with hearing loss should get in one as soon as possible.
You can find a program through your local public school or hospital. You’ll work with hearing specialists, like audiologists and speech-language pathologists, to come up with an "individualized family service plan" (IFSP). Early intervention also provides support for families and can teach you ways to help your child stay on track with language and speech.