Both audiologists and otolaryngologists agree that infants whose hearing loss is diagnosed before six months demonstrate better language skills than those whose hearing loss is diagnosed later. "The goal of early detection intervention is to avoid speech and language delays and possibly the need for special education and services," Dr. Spivak says, but notes that each child's situation is different. "The more severe the hearing loss, and the later it is detected, the more likely it is that the child will need special services in school."
Babies can be fitted with a hearing aid as early as four weeks of age. If hearing loss is so severe that surgery must be performed, Drs. Spivak and Dolitsky both agree that a child can undergo a cochlear implant after one year of age. "The child must go through a hearing aid trial first," says Dr. Dolitsky. Dr. Spivak adds, "The child must be 12 months of age before being implanted with a cochlear implant except in some special cases."
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) ensures that children who suffer from permanent hearing loss receive free early intervention programs from birth to age three and throughout their school years until they reach 21.
Signs of Possible Hearing Loss
- Failure to startle or jump at loud sounds.
- Failure to turn toward the sound of a voice or to imitate sounds after six months of age.
- Lack of babbling at nine months of age.
- Not using single words by 18 months of age.
- Several ear infections in infants/toddlers.
Every child develops at his or her own pace; however, if anything concerns you and your partner, consult your child's pediatrician or caregiver for further information.
For more information about hearing loss, screening tests, and intervention programs, be sure to try these resources:
- National Association of the Deaf
- National Campaign for Hearing Health
- American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)
- American Society for Deaf Children (ASDC): 1-800-942-ASDC
- American Academy of Audiology: 1-800-AAA-2336
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Healthline: 1-888-232-5929
- March of Dimes