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. Here’s what you can do to help.
1. Get Treatment Early
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, electronic devices that go inside the inner ear to help the brain process sounds.
And 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 choose 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 hearing loss themselves. So they have a lot to learn about living with and treating the condition. That’s where an early intervention program comes in. It helps you coordinate all the services your child will need. Babies with hearing loss should get early intervention 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.