Keep an eye out

In my last column, I talked about eyesight and its role on early childhood development. Now let’s consider the impact hearing has on helping your child learn and grow.

Effects on development

Hearing sounds and words helps children learn to talk and understand. A child with hearing loss misses out on these sounds. This can cause problems with speaking, reading, school success and social skills. Hearing loss in children can lead to delayed speech and language skills, learning problems in school, feeling bad about himself/herself and have trouble making friends.

Types of

hearing loss

Congenital hearing loss means it was present in an infant at birth. This may be caused by birth complications, premature birth, a nervous system or brain disorder, the mother had an infection during pregnancy, maternal diabetes, drug or alcohol abuse by the mother or smoking during pregnancy. A recessive congenital hearing loss accounts for around 70 percent of all genetic hearing loss cases. In this case, the parent does not have a hearing loss, but each parent carries a recessive gene that gets passed to the child.

Children can also be affected by acquired hearing loss, which happens after birth. There are various causes of acquired hearing loss, including a perforated eardrum, infections like meningitis, measles, mumps or a whooping cough, head injury, exposure to loud noise, untreated or frequent ear infections and exposure to secondhand smoke.

Hearing milestones

From birth to four months, your infant should be startled at loud sounds, wake up or stir at noises, respond to your voice by smiling or cooing and be able to calm down at a familiar voice.

From four months to nine months, your infant should smile when spoken to, notice toys that make sounds, turn its head toward familiar sounds, make babbling noises, understand hand motions like waving.

From nine to 15 months, your infant should, make various babbling sounds, repeat simple sounds, understand basic requests, use its voice to get your attention and respond to their name.

From 15 to 24 months, your infant should use many simple words, point to body parts when asked, name common objects, listen with interests to songs, rhymes and stories, point to familiar objects you name and follow basic commands.

Older children could also acquire hearing loss that is either permanent or temporary. Here are some things to look for if you think your toddler or preschool-age child might have hearing loss: difficulty understanding what people are saying, speaks differently than other children her or his age, doesn’t reply when you call his or her name, has problems academically, has speech or language delays or problems articulating things, complains of ear pain, earaches or noises.

Until recently, many parents have been waiting until age two to heave their child’s hearing tested if they had noticed their child wasn’t talking. However new advancements allow a newborn to have their hearing tested before they leave the hospital. If you notice your child having any of these symptoms, please consult with your family physician and make a referral to an audiologist if needed.