Diagnosing Hearing Loss in Children
Many hospitals routinely screen newborns for hearing impairment. Other hospitals only screen infants who are at risk for hearing impairment, such as those with a genetic tendency for deafness. A number of states have laws that require early hearing screening for all infants. Check with your pediatrician or hospital to find if your child has received a hearing test. If not, see how you can get one.
Treatment Options for Children With Hearing Loss
Treatment options for children with hearing loss depend upon the condition and degree of hearing impairment.
The most common types of treatment for otitis media include:
- Watchful waiting. Because the condition often clears on its own, sometimes the initial treatment for otitis media is simply to monitor the child for any changes.
- Medications. Your pediatrician may prescribe antibiotics or other medications for your child.
- Ear tubes. If the problem persists and seems to be affecting your child's hearing, your pediatrician may suggest that your child receive ear tubes. These allow fluid to drain and can help prevent infection. If your pediatrician thinks your child needs ear tubes, he or she will refer you to an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist, also known as an otolaryngologist. Inserting ear tubes is a minor outpatient surgical procedure, but your child will have to have a general anesthetic in the hospital.
Other types of treatment for children with hearing loss include:
- Hearing aids. Children with hearing loss can begin to use hearing aids when they are as young as 1 month old. Your hearing specialist will help ensure that your child is fitted with the most appropriate device.
- Implants. Many children and adults are now getting cochlear implants, electronic devices that help with hearing. These are usually used for children with serious hearing problems, for whom hearing aids have not been effective.
- Other hearing devices. There are a number of other devices that can help children with hearing loss with communication and learning. Ask a hearing specialist about other devices that might be appropriate for your child.
Support for Parents of Children With Hearing Loss
Under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), children with hearing loss are entitled to early intervention and appropriate education from the time they are born and throughout their school years. Early intervention can help your child learn to communicate through speech or signing, or a combination of both.
If your child needs ongoing support and intervention in school, work with your school administrators to make sure he or she gets the help that's needed. As your child matures, it's likely that his or her education program will need readjusting. So you will need to stay involved to ensure your child gets the help he or she needs.