hearing loss in baby and childNo matter if your baby is newly born or several months old the sense of hearing plays a vital part in his or her life. Hearing helps to develop your little ones emotional, social and cognitive aspects in life.

It is via the hearing capacity that your child actually grows the ability to communicate with understanding what others around him or her say. According to experts a mild or partial impairment in the child’s sense of hearing would lead to the loss of ability to speak and understand what one is trying to say.

Thus, it is important that you comprehend how to identify if your baby is suffering from a defect as it is important to get his or her hearing screened at an early stage for treatment. To discuss about this in length the BabySpace contacted an Audiometric Clinician and Hearing Aid Consultant, Chemila Liyanage, who is attached to a leading optical and hearing aids institute in Sri Lanka.

According to Ms. Liyanage, early detection of a hearing difficulty plays a crucial role as it helps to many of the cases that they come across.

“Some of the cases that we come across are hard to be treated because parents or guardians of these children have failed to detect the defect at an early stage,” she said adding that there is a high chance that this could lead to permanent hearing loss in the child.

There is a test that is conducted on new-borns called the Otoacoustic emissions (OAEs) that helps experts to see if there is a malfunction in the area so that it could be treated before it is too late. Unfortunately in Sri Lanka this test is not available in hospitals yet.

“When the child is two or three years old and had a defect since he or she was a baby then there is a very low chance of treating the defect successfully. Also a surgery at this stage could cost around 2.6 million rupees to 2.8 million rupees depending on the device that is being used,” Ms. Liyanage said.

What types of cases are most common in Sri Lanka?

According to our Audiometric Clinician around 80 per cent of the cases that she comes across in daily life are caused by middle ear problems. Middle ear defects can be due to infections in the ear, phlegm, genetics and the effects of harmful food products such as artificial food and alcohol mixed items that a mother consumed during pregnancy.

Ms. Liyanage said that even infants who are born with cleft lips can have defects in the middle ear that is naturally caused. “Most parents and experts fail to identify this because they get caught up trying to treat the cleft lip. It is important that parents remember that such children could have fluid stored in the middle ear that should be removed before it causes any permanent harm,” she said.
She explained that prolonged exposure to defects in the middle ear leads to defects in the inner ear where deficiencies are caused to the nerves functions. Treatments for such cases are use of hearing aids or cochlear implants where an electronic device is surgically implanted in the child’s ear to give the sense of sound.

Middle ear infections are seen among children below 12-13 years of age and found very rarely once they pass the age.

Another common case that is found among Sri Lankan babies is Meningitis. Meningitis is an infection in the protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord which can be caused by bacteria or viruses. Ms. Liyanage said that delay in vaccination of babies could also cause Meningitis. This disease affects the nervous function of a child.

Thirdly hearing injuries can be caused by accidents, forced deliveries and exposure to loud noises such as fire crackers and loud music. If the child’s sense of hearing is defected through these ways it is important that it is identified before the child is three to four years old. Failing this could result in the inability or delay to perceive language in the child.

How to detect hearing loss in your child

Parents and guardians are always encouraged to closely observe the child to see if a defect in growth is taking place. In Sri Lanka most parents fail to identify hearing loss in their child until later ages. BabySpace has put together a number of ways in which you can identify if your baby or toddler is suffering from a hearing loss.

Symptoms or signs of hearing defects among children vary by their age. An infant with a defect will not get startled or cry when there is a loud noise and older babies will not respond to familiar sounds or voices and will not show any sign or reaction when a sound is made. Toddlers, once they are over 15 months should start using simple words. Inability to do so means that he or she is suffering from a hearing loss.

Other ways to detect a possible defect is when your child;

  • Fails to respond to your voice or show any reaction when you say something near him or her
  • Is rubbing or scratching the ear constantly
  • Inattentive and seem distant
  • Having fever and has ear pains
  • Becomes overly irritable and cannot be controlled easily
  • Respond to very loud noise (in case of a mild defect)
  • Older children may talk louder or ask people to be loud when they speak and need loud music or ask the volume to be increased when watching the television

The table below shows a checklist on for detecting hearing problems in an infant or child up to 2 years.

Age of baby Questions Yes No How they should respond
A few weeks old Does your baby open his/her eyes or blink when there is noise?Does your baby appear to be listening to you when you talk or sing? Should show signs of hearing sounds – open eyes, blink, look alert (like they are listening to sound)
About 6 months Does your baby try to see where the noise is coming from by turning his/her eyes or head towards the sound?Does your baby enjoy you talking to him/her? Should respond by trying to see where the sound is coming from by turning their eyes or heads in the direction of the sound
About 9 months Does your baby appear to respond to even very soft sounds?Does your baby enjoy babbling and making other sounds? Should be listening to loud or very soft sounds and making all sorts of sounds themselves
About 1 year Does your baby respond when you say his/her name and the name of things they play with?Is your baby starting to say baby words? Should respond to their own name and other words they know and start to say “baby” words
About 18 months Does your baby pick up or point to things around the house when you ask them to do this?Is your baby starting to use simple words? Should be able to point to familiar things, when asked to do so and be using simple words
2 years old Do you think your baby can hear normally even when you speak to him/her in a very soft voice?Is your baby trying to put words together and trying to talk to you?

Places you can get help

There are several places around the country where tests on hearing impairment could be done. These places include Wickremarachchi Institute of Speech and Hearing, Vision Care, Medcon, Ratmalana Audiology Center and a number of state run hospitals such as the Lady Ridgeway Hospital in Colombo.

A series of tests are available in these institutions which that can help experts recognize and treat your baby for normal hearing capabilities.

You can also leave a comment to this article if you have any problems regarding hearing defects and a BabySpace expert will address your concerns.

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