Discovering Hearing Loss in Babies

2/24/2014

Cooing and babbling from infants are part of normal development. They mimic the sounds they hear. Imagine for a moment if their world was silent. Without hearing sounds, they would have nothing to pattern after and their language skills wouldn’t progress.

That’s the reality for nearly 12,000 babies born each year in the United States, according to the National Institute on Deafness. It is one of the most common birth defects.

Because hearing is a fundamental part of learning, universal newborn hearing screening programs are available in every state. In Louisiana, the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Program oversees screenings on all infants who are born in a hospital or a medical facility.

“A baby’s hearing ability is checked before they leave the hospital,” said Jake Cavanaugh, Au.D., audiologist with Hearing Solutions of Louisiana and medical staff member of West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital. “The test is painless and easy but it can identify if there is a problem and give the parents a recommended follow-up date. The screening usually takes about 10 minutes and can be done when the baby is sleeping.”

Without newborn screening, children with hearing impairments often are not diagnosed until two or three years of age, causing many to lose ground in their development.

“The goal of early screening, combined with follow up testing, if needed, and treatment, is to help children with hearing impairment to develop language and academic skills on their level and equal to their peers,” said Cavanaugh.

Hearing impairment can be inherited or it could be the result of illness or injury before, during, or after birth. About 90 percent of babies with hearing impairments are born to parents with normal hearing, according to the March of Dimes.

“It is very important for parents to receive the report from the hearing screening. If for some reason they don’t receive it at the hospital, they should follow up with their child’s pediatrician within one month,” Cavanaugh said. “Babies with hearing difficulties should be seen by a specialist as soon as possible to avoid developmental delays.”

Cavanaugh said parents should be alert to any signs of hearing problems, such as:
• Not turning toward the sound of a voice by six months of age
• Lack of babbling by 12 months of age
• Failure to startle at loud sounds
• Not using single words by 18 months

Research shows that if a child’s hearing loss is remedied by six months of age, it will prevent subsequent language delays. Being sure that your baby’s hearing is as it should be will help them in every aspect of learning and development.

For more information, or to schedule a hearing evaluation, call Hearing Solutions of Louisiana at (337) 528-7842.

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