Hearing plays a critical role in a child’s cognitive, social, and emotional development. A child with a hearing loss can face serious delays in speech and language processing and understanding.
Early detection and intervention can minimize the negative impacts that hearing loss can have on a developing child, and can prevent developmental difficulties that would otherwise stretch into adulthood. To identify children with hearing loss, and to provide interventions before the age of 6 months, each state has established an Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) program.
Each state’s EHDI program screens every newborn for hearing loss prior to discharging them from the hospital. If an infant fails the screening, they receive a diagnostic evaluation and are enrolled in early intervention programs before they turn 6 months old. Babies born in birthing centers or at home are still eligible and should be screened before 3 weeks of age. If after further evaluation a diagnosis is made, treatment should begin prior to 6 months of age.
If an initial screening is passed, the infant’s hearing is presumed to be healthy, and regular testing should be scheduled for later in life. If a screening is not passed, the infant is referred to an audiologist for an in-depth hearing assessment in order to determine the cause and extent of the hearing loss.
Hearing loss occurs in one to three out of every 1,000 newborns, usually as a result of genetics, maternal infections during pregnancy, complications during birth, or trauma.
A child may have a hearing loss if they prefer excessively high volume for television or radio, if speech development seems impaired, if they seem to be struggling academically, or if there is a noted lack of response to requests or directions.
Parents should seek an evaluation for their child if they exhibit any indicators of hearing loss or fail to meet developmental milestones. An audiologist can work closely with doctors, educators, and speech pathologists to perform tests and implement interventions, which vastly improve a child’s overall development.