It can be hard to find out your child has hearing loss. But hearing loss doesn't need to hold your child back from learning and communicating. With the right treatment and services, your little one can develop right along with everyone else. Here’s what you can do to help.
1. Get Treatment Early
For hearing loss, early treatment is key. This usually means using hearing aids or other devices to help your child hear.
"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, MPH. She's a pediatric and general ear, nose, and throat doctor at Washington Township Medical Foundation in Fremont, California. "Children who are exposed to sounds earlier are more likely to develop along the same path as others their age."
Babies are now tested for hearing loss shortly after birth. That means they can get fitted for hearing aids at just a few weeks old. It’s important to choose a pediatric audiologist who is certified.
"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," says Tylor. Cochlear implants are electronic devices placed inside the inner ear to help the brain process sounds. Your ear, nose, and throat doctor will talk with you about which device will work best for your child.
2. Use Early Intervention Services
About 95% of parents of children with hearing loss do not have hearing loss themselves. This can mean they have a lot to learn. That’s where an early intervention program comes in. This 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). This plan outlines your child’s services and goals. Early intervention also provides support for families and can teach you ways to help develop your child’s language and speech.
3. Find Support for Yourself
It’s easier to help your child if you have support, too.
"Coping with hearing loss is a lot to handle at first, so families need extra emotional support," says K. Todd Houston, PhD. He’s an associate professor of speech-language pathology at the University of Akron.
Some parents find counseling helpful. Others turn to support groups. They let you connect with other families who are dealing with hearing loss. There are many online communities, or you can ask your doctor about groups in your community. The Alexander Graham Bell Association has a listing of chapters on its web site and offers outings and conferences for families.
"Many parents really enjoy the shared experience and validation of a support group," says Houston.