Hearing Aids for Babies
Every moment of a new baby’s life is critical for development. Language learning begins within the first few months after birth. It’s absolutely critical that, if a baby has hearing loss, the child is fitted with a hearing aid. Parents must take responsibility for follow up testing.
Videos of children hearing for the first time will undoubtedly bring you to tears. The Telegraph recently published an article about a child born profoundly deaf in one ear and severe hearing loss in the other. At nine weeks old, he was fitted with a hearing aid. The touching video shows the child experiencing sound for the first time. It’s a beautiful video, but it’s a sobering reminder of the statistics for untreated hearing loss in infants.
It’s common now for babies to have their hearing screened in newborn nurseries in hospitals. About 97 percent of babies in the United States go through this screening process. This is a fantastic statistic, but it masks another statistic. Nearly 50 percent of newborns who failed the newborn hearing screening did not receive repeat testing and treatment.
Without repeat testing and follow-up a child may have stunted learning. Before testing in newborn nurseries became a widespread phenomenon in the 1990s, children would routinely go nearly three years without a diagnosis, or until parents noticed that speech was not developing at the same pace as other children.
Studies now show that even mild hearing loss or hearing loss in one ear is linked to poorer language skills in children. While it may have been excusable in the 1980s to forego hearing tests in babies, technology has advanced to such a degree that you can accurately diagnose hearing loss. A tiny microphone is inserted into the ear of a sleeping newborn to measure echoes from the cochlea when it is stimulated by sound.
Now, it is critical for all babies who fail a newborn hearing test to follow a 1-3-6 plan. Screen every baby by one month. Do a diagnostic on those that fail within three months. Fit those babies for hearing aids by 6 months.
Here is a great resource from the CDC: “Guide to Hearing Loss in Children”