Tune in to Hearing Loss Prevention Tips for Your Child
Hearing plays an important role in communication, speech, language development and learning. Hearing loss (even partial hearing loss) is more common than you think. Earlier this year, ABC 7 did a story on ear buds and hearing loss, stating that one in five people in their twenties cannot hear the sound of a raindrop hitting the pavement due to the increased use of music ear buds. While not being able to hear a raindrop may not worry some, even a small amount of hearing loss can have negative effects on speech, language comprehension, communication, classroom learning and social development. To learn more, I partnered with Sandra Romero, Au.D, pediatric audiologist in the Division of Rehabilitative Medicine at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
Two Types of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss does not only result from loud noises, some children lose hearing due to genetics.
- Congenital hearing loss is when a child inherits a genetic difference that is responsible for the hearing loss. Sometimes the cause could be prenatal exposure to an infection or toxin while in their mother’s womb.
- Acquired hearing loss is when a child’s hearing loss develops after birth. This can be a result of a disease, a condition or an injury.
Causes and Risks Associated with Hearing Loss
A majority of hearing loss cases are due to genetics or complications during pregnancy.
- 12 percent of children and adolescents aged six to 19 years old have suffered permanent damage to their hearing because of excessive exposure to noise.
- 25 percent of babies are born with hearing loss and the cause is unknown.
- 25-30 percent of hearing loss in babies is due to maternal infections during pregnancy or complications during birth.
- 50-60 percent of hearing loss in babies is due to genetic causes. This includes babies that have family members with hearing loss or babies that have been diagnosed with a syndrome, such as Alport syndrome, Stickler syndrome and others.
Signs of Hearing Loss
- Not startled by loud noises
- Not turn to source of sound by six months
- Do not say a single word such as “mama” or “dada” by one year
- Turns head when child sees you but NOT when you only call their name
- They appear to only hear some sounds but not others
- Speech is delayed and not clear
- Does not follow directions, for example, the child can be mistaken for not paying attention or ignoring an adult but could actually be partial hearing loss.
- Often says “huh”
- Turns volume on electronics up very loudly
What to do if you are Concerned Your Child has Hearing Loss
All babies should have a hearing screening by one month of age. A screening is painless and can be done while the baby is sleeping. All children should have their hearing tested before entering school or any time there is a concern about the child’s hearing. Speak with your child’s pediatrician if you think a hearing test is needed.
Four Tips to Prevent Hearing Loss in Your Child
- Have a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy including routine prenatal care.
- Make sure your child gets all regular childhood vaccines.
- Keep your child away from loud noises. Noise-induced (acquired) hearing loss is permanent and is always preventable. It is caused by prolonged or repeated exposure to any loud noise over 85 decibels, which is the loudness of sound measured in units called decibels (dB). Common sounds that are higher than 85 dB include power mowers, music concerts, emergency vehicle sirens, airplane jets taking off, fireworks and lawnmowers.
- Create a quiet home. Here are some recommendations:
- Set your TV or video game volume to the lowest volume but can still be heard clearly.
- Buy quiet toys or toys that have a volume control and set it to the lowest volume.
- If you live in a noisy location, keep windows and doors closed to minimize potentially harmful outside sounds.
- Use soft inside furnishings, more curtains, cushions and carpets that will absorb more sound.
- Encourage children to use earplugs or earmuffs if exposure to potentially harmful sounds is likely (e.g. music concerts, fireworks, power tools, lawnmowers).
- “When counseling my patients about volume and personal stereos I teach parents that if they can hear the music coming from their child’s headphones they should encourage their child to turn the music down,” shares Dr. Romero.
These tips are the best way to prevent acquired hearing loss. Starting as early as today, you can begin creating a quieter home and taking action in preventing hearing loss from affecting your child and family.