Hearing loss can affect a child’s ability to develop their speech, language, and social skills. If you have any concerns that your child might be suffering from a hearing impairment, the best course of action is to have them undergo a hearing assessment as soon as possible so that if there is an issue, it can be treated appropriately.
When Is Children’s Hearing Usually Tested?
Your child’s hearing is likely to get checked:
- Soon after birth (within a few weeks): this test is known as newborn hearing screening and is normally carried out before the baby leaves the hospital after having been born. Newborn hearing screening helps identify babies suffering from permanent hearing loss as early on as possible so that the parents can begin receiving appropriate support and advice right away. Although not compulsory, this test is highly recommended and even people having a home birth are invited to the hospital to have it done.
- Between 9 months and 2.5 years of age: Regular health and development reviews for your baby will be offered to you until the baby is two years old. The purpose of these is to provide you and your baby with support and to ensure that their development is on track. During these reviews, you will have the chance to voice any concerns you might have, including concerns regarding hearing loss so that hearing tests can be arranged if needed.
- At 4/5 years old: Your child may have a hearing test before they begin attending school which can be either performed at the school or at an audiology department. The test usually used is called pure tone audiometry and involves a machine generating sounds at different frequencies and volumes to work out the quietest sound the child can hear.
How to Spot Early Symptoms of Hearing Loss in Children
Despite the routine hearing checks your child will be offered as they grow up, it is important to be prepared to spot signs of any issues that might be present so that, if needed, you can seek advice as early on as possible.
In babies, signs of hearing loss vary and can be quite challenging to identify. Some early symptoms may include:
- Not startled by loud sounds
- Doesn’t quiet down or smile when you speak
- Reacts to visual stimuli (e. g. by turning their head when they see you), but there is no reaction when you vocally address them while outside their vision field
- Seems unaffected by music
- Doesn’t move their eyes in effort to localize sound
- Speech and language skills are delayed, and baby doesn’t display ability to repeat simple words by the age of 1 year
In toddlers or older children, the following signs may indicate a hearing impairment:
- Has difficulty with speech understanding
- Doesn’t react when you call their name
- Can seem inattentive and struggle with concentration
- Is often tired and/or frustrated
- Talks very loudly and/or speaks differently from other children their age
- Struggles with pinpointing where a sound is coming from
- Tends to mispronounce words
- Has issues with their progress at school
- Turns the TV volume up to a very high level or sits very close to the television
What to Do if You Are Concerned About Your Child’s Hearing
If you think that your child might be suffering from a hearing impairment, make sure to contact their pediatrician as soon as possible. In this way, if there is an issue, they will be able to receive an appropriate diagnosis and treatment/intervention early on, and you- the support and advice you need as a parent to effectively handle the child’s condition.
Some treatments and interventions that your child may receive if they do get diagnosed with hearing loss include:
Early diagnosis and treatment help prevent issues with speech and language development. The specific treatment would depend on the child’s age, type of hearing loss, and expectations for the course of the condition. The earlier on a potential issue is detected, the better the outcome will be for the child, so if you do suspect there might be something wrong, the best course of action is to trust your instinct and contact your child’s GP straight away.