:: The Galveston County Daily News | Hearing loss and child development ::

Hearing loss and child development

By Sally Robinson and Keith Bly
Published April 4, 2007

Hearing loss in infants and children is not a common occurrence, but the effects, when it occurs, may devastate parents.

Repeated temporary interruptions in hearing during the intense period of development in the six months after birth can have permanent effects on language facility later in life. Infants need to receive auditory feedback if they are to learn the speech motor skills involved in talking.

Some signals that a child may have hearing difficulties are:

• If he or she has a speech or language delay;

• Uses gestures to communicate instead of speech;

• Watches you closely when you talk;

• Does not wake up to loud sounds; and

• Has a change in voice quality.

Middle-ear infections are one of the most common risk factors associated with hearing impairment. Additional risk factors include other viral and bacterial infections, conditions such as low birth weight that lead to a stay in the newborn intensive care unit or a family history of permanent childhood hearing loss.

Parents with a child who has had repeated bouts of otitis media should ask their pediatrician if the disease may have impaired the child’s hearing.

Keep in mind that this condition occurs in only a small number of children. But because the first six months of life involve important developmental changes, the American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on Newborn and Infant Screening recommended that all newborns have screening before they reach 1 month of age, with audiologic confirmation of significant hearing loss by the time they are 3 months of age and intervention by six months of age. Infants who have failed the first hospital screening should have had a second screening to determine whether the baby needs to be seen by an audiologist.

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