Imagine not being able to hear your family call your name or say “I love you.” Thirty-six million Americans suffer from hearing loss, many of whom are children. “Six out of 1,000 babies are born every year with hearing loss,” OB/GYN Dr. Lisa Masterson says. “So, it’s really important to pick it up at the beginning because it’s so important in development and language skills.”
Hearing loss in children can be hereditary but is also often caused by chronic ear infections and scarring caused by tubes that are left in the ear too long.
Abigail, 6, suffers from mixed hearing loss, which is caused by hereditary nerve deafness and chronic infections. “In somebody who has underlying sensory neural hearing loss, it’s so important you get the middle ear to work as well as you can,” ear, nose and throat specialist Dr. Drew Ordon says.
After receiving a hearing aid, Abigail and her father, Kerry, see immediate changes. “It’s a night-and-day difference,” Kerry, says. “It’s amazing to have the miracle of hearing and to see her eyes light up is just a blessing.”
While hospitals do check newborns’ hearing with specialized equipment, there are ways to test at home, as well. “Starting as a newborn, something a parent can do at home is called a sleeping-baby test,” hearing specialist Dr. Trevi Sawalich says. “As your baby is sleeping, get a cooking pot or pan from the kitchen and bang it. A normal reaction would be a baby should be startled. If you don’t see that response, consider further evaluation. As a child, you’re looking for any kind of speech delay, problems in the school, attention-deficit problems, learning problems in school, trouble focusing, because a lot of children are misdiagnosed as having attention-deficit problems, when in reality they could just have a hearing loss that needs to be checked.”
Dr. Jim’s Tips for Preventing Ear Infections
• Longer breast feeding has been shown to reduce chances of chronic ear infections.
• Avoid large daycare settings.
• Make sure to control allergies.