How to help infants and children with hearing difficulties
Hearing loss is one of the most common disabilities in children and affects approximately 2-4 infants per every 1,000, and out of all children born with hearing loss, around 96% are born to parents with no hearing disabilities.
This can make things more baffling for parents of infants or children who are diagnosed with a hearing disability, because someone who does not suffer from a hearing disability will generally have little to no knowledge about dealing with things like deafness or sign language.
Many people believe that the parents should be able to tell if their child has hearing disabilities, however, before infant screening programs were implemented, the average age at which a child was diagnosed with a hearing disability was three years old.
It is important, both for the child and the parents that a diagnosis is made before or at six months of age. Without early diagnosis, the child may develop psychosocial, linguistic and education deficiencies. Early diagnosis gives parents a chance to adjust and gives the child a chance to develop normal language and speech.
Available treatments and technology
While there is no single treatment or intervention plan that will be perfect for every child, it is important to be aware of the options that are available for your child. There are two main categories when it comes to technology for hearing disabilities, these are hearing aids and assistive listening devices.
Hearing aids have become more advanced in recent years, but their basic function remains the same. They work by catching sound waves through a microphone, after which they are changed into electrical signals. An amplifier increases the sound's strength and then transforms it back into an acoustic signal, which is then sent to the ear canal. Children's hearing aids must generally be custom-made to fit the ear.
Assistive listening devices are designed to help people with all degrees of hearing loss and can help to make different forms of communication easier. Such devices can help alert children of sounds in their environment at home or at school. They can also help to facilitate face-to-face communication.
Along with such devices, parents can also enlist help from hearing loss treatment professionals, who will be able to devise a treatment plan and give advice about which hearing aids, assistive listening devices or possible surgical intervention will best suit a child's needs. Hearing loss treatment professionals include audiologists, hearing aid specialists, and otolaryngologists.
Coping with a Child's Hearing Disability
Coping with a hearing disability is a difficult thing, both for parents and children. Parents often have difficulty adapting to a situation where a child needs special care. In such cases, it may be helpful to seek extra support in the form of a hearing loss counselor or support group.
Speaking to parents of other children with hearing disabilities helps parents feel that they are not alone in their struggle. A hearing loss counselor can be helpful in preparing parents for the challenges they will face.
Other helpful services can include specialized childcare and transportation services, which will help to put a parent's mind at ease when their child is undertaking activities outside of the home.