Hearing loss can have a significant impact on a child's development of speech, language, and social skills. The earlier hearing loss is identified and treated, the greater the likelihood of the child reaching their full potential.
Research from the World Health Organization shows that children who are born deaf or develop hearing loss early in life and receive treatment within the first six months, have the same language development as their hearing peers by the age of five.1 Early intervention is crucial for children's overall development and well-being. If you suspect that your child may have hearing loss, please seek professional help as soon as possible.
Benefits of Early Treatment
Early treatment can give your child's hearing development comparable to their hearing peers, providing them with an equal opportunity to succeed in life.2,3 Getting treatment as soon as possible can have numerous benefits, including establishing the foundation for basic language, allowing children to develop social skills, and helping them succeed in school.
Research has shown that children who receive cochlear implants at a younger age have stronger language abilities compared to those treated when they were two years old. Approximately eighty percent of children who received cochlear implants before the age of one had a thorough understanding of different words by the time they began school.4
Speech & Language Development
From a baby's first coos to their first words and beyond, the ability to communicate develops gradually. However, even before a child can speak their first word, they are already absorbing language skills from the adults around them. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, along with other professionals, have identified the following age-appropriate speech and language milestones for babies and young children:
Birth to 5 months
Expresses joy and displeasure sounds differently (chuckles, cries, or nags)
Makes noise when spoken to
Early signs of hearing loss in children
Signs and symptoms for each child may be different. It is important to look out for the following signs even if the child has passed a screening test
Lack of reaction to loud noises
No response to sounds by 6 months of age
Inability to say single words like "dada" or "mama" by 1 year of age
Difficulty hearing certain sounds but not others
Turns head when visually prompted but not when called by name.
Turns the television or a video volume up too high
Says ‘Huh?’ Frequently
It is recommended you visit a professional or an expert in case you notice any of signs in your child or baby. Contact us in case you need to connect with a specialist near you.
Screening, Diagnosis & Intervention:
Early intervention is crucial for your child's language and social development and is a key factor in achieving better outcomes.
The journey towards early intervention starts with screening a baby at birth and getting a full hearing assessment by consulting a professional. One commonly used screening tool is OAE (Otoacoustic Emissions) which is often used in hospitals to screen for hearing loss.
If your child fails the screening test, it will be followed by BERA/ABR (Auditory Brainstem Response) testing to evaluate the degree of hearing loss. Behavioral testing such as BOA (Behavioral Observation Audiometry) and VRA (Visual Response Audiometry) are also used to quantify the degree of hearing loss.
Once the degree of hearing loss is determined, your professional will guide you through the appropriate treatment options.
Screening and rescreening no later than 1 month of age
Diagnostic assessment no later than 3 months of age
Early intervention for babies diagnosed with a hearing loss no later than 6 months of age
Experts globally suggest that a 1-3-6-month approach should be followed for babies5 It is recommended that babies get their screening done no later than 1 month of age.
In case a baby does not pass a hearing screening, it is extremely important to conduct a full hearing test as soon as possible or at most by 3 months of age. Post the diagnosis, appropriate treatment and measures should be in place by 6 months of the baby’s age.
The center for disease control and detection suggests that a child must undergo a hearing test before entering school or whenever a hearing loss sign is observed by the parents. In a situation where the child does not pass the screening, it becomes crucial to get a full hearing test.
Before the surgery
Before the surgery, the team of professionals works together to evaluate candidacy and prognosis of the cochlear implant candidate1.
Audiologists & Clinics
Audiological evaluation is done to check whether patients meet the candidacy criteria for a cochlear implant. These include:
Hearing tests including an audiogram, BERA/ASSR etc.
Hearing aid trial with speech therapy to evaluate potential benefits if any at all
Once the audiological evalutation meets the cadidacy criteria for cochlear implants, ENT surgeons (trained cochlear implant surgeons) evaluate whether a cochlear implant surgery can be performed and if it will benefit candidates by doing the following tests:
Examining external, middle & inner ear to detect if there is an infection or abnormality
During a cochlear implant surgery
A cochlear implant surgery is a low-risk routine medical procedure, which may take 1-3 hours. A small incision is made behind the ear. Surgeons make an incision behind the pinna to surgically implant the electrodes inside the cochlea and the receiver is implanted in the temporal bone behind the ear. Patients will require a short stay at the hospital under professional supervision
After a cochlear implant surgery
The patient is given instructions on post-surgery care for the incision. There is some time needed for the incision to heal before patients get back to their normal routine. This period can vary for each patient and only an expert can guide a patient as to when stitches can be removed. Professionals provide guidance toward when the patient can wash their ear and engage themselves in other activities.
Activation & Mapping
It is at this time that a patient hears for the first time and learns the basics of using and carrying the processor. Mapping will be taken place over several months. It is important to know that learning to use a cochlear implant is a gradual process.
Even though a cochlear implant provides the access to sound, understanding can take more than just hearing. Habilitation for patients who have never heard before and rehabilitation for patients who are learning to hear again are needed to allow optimal gains for all patients. Speech language pathologists and educators of the deaf guide parents and patients throughout this process.