A huge part of children’s development happens while watching and listening. This automatically makes hearing a vital part of healthy development. When there is a partial or complete loss of hearing ability, it is called hearing impairment/ hearing loss. Hearing impairment has detrimental effects on overall development and social functioning. In children, an unaddressed hearing loss during the developmental years can hinder;
- Cognitive Development
- Language Acquisition
- Overall literacy
- Social skills and attitude
The absence of auditory input during childhood is a serious, yet, relatively common phenomenon. (Check out the previous post – ‘Hearing loss’- Not just the loss of Hearing for a detailed input on hearing loss and its effects).
The problems in areas mentioned above cause:
- Academic underachievement
- Fewer employment opportunities in the future
- Problems with performance at work
- Difficulty in day-to-day communication
- Communication breakdown leading to negative feelings like anger, stress, loneliness
- Negative attitudes that further spiral into problems like social withdrawal, anxiety and depression
- Dealing with the social stigma
While all these are causes for serious concern, in this time and day, we have fortunately made so many technological advances that help us. Several committees and organizations highlight the need and importance of early identification and intervention of hearing impairment. Initiation of proper interventions strategies in the first 6 months of life helps in mitigating the negative impact of hearing loss on a child’s development. Thus, the inception of the ‘Newborn Hearing Screening‘ has played a vital role in advancing healthcare.
Newborn Hearing screening is usually the first step to understand about the hearing status of infants. It is a screening protocol that paves way for early identification of hearing loss. It provides an opportunity to access habilitation services at the earliest. Most audiology settings have protocols that will use Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) screening and automated Auditory Brainstem Response (AABR) evaluations for screening. It checks the integrity of the auditory system and the hearing levels. An initial screening is usually done soon after the birth (closer to the discharge from hospital). If your baby does not pass the initial screening (no need to panic, 2 or 3 babies in every 100 may not pass the initial screening), a re-screening is warranted within the first month. When a baby does not pass the re-screening, they are referred for a detailed evaluation by an Audiologist.
Even after the screening procedure, you have to keep monitoring your baby’s responses to sounds, speech onset, ear infection, general health and well-being. If there is any concern or doubt regarding the baby’s hearing health, do not hesitate to reach out to your Audiologist or Otolaryngologist.
Do not forget to take your newborn for a hearing screening when you come back home from the hospital! It ensures the optimal development for your child.