Does my child have a hearing loss? How can I know for sure?

August 15, 2011

Does my child have a hearing loss? How can I know for sure?

It is difficult for parents to accept the notion that their child may have a hearing loss, especially if he is in perfect health and no one else in the family is hearing impaired. Deafness in children often goes unnoticed from family members and health care professionals, until the child begins to show signs of delays in his or her language development. Generally speaking, hearing impairments are only detected after the age of two.

Screening newborns’ hearing in the days immediately following birth can help lower the age at which they are diagnosed with a hearing impairment and speed up treatment, potentially minimizing the negative effects of the condition on their development.

The screening tests used are quick and painless for the baby. They are performed when the child is calm or asleep. The most widely used test is called an otoacoustic emission test and consists of recording an echo produced by the ear in response to an auditory stimulus. A tiny earplug is inserted into the child’s ear and the device automatically records the response in the minutes that follow. The other test used is the auditory evoked potential test, which consists of recording, by means of small electrodes placed on the baby’s head, the electrical impulses produced in the brain when a quiet sound is played. As with the other test, the device automatically records the subsequent response.

If the screening tests generate positive results or are not performed properly, it does not necessarily mean the child has a hearing impairment. At that point, more comprehensive hearing tests will be needed to establish whether the child hears well. Performed by an audiologist, these tests are used to confirm or deny the presence of a hearing impairment. If the child is in fact diagnosed with a hearing impairment, the audiologist will discuss treatment options with the family based on the extent of the child’s hearing loss, such as the use of hearing aids.

Québec will soon have its first universal newborn hearing screening program in place, providing all newborn babies free hearing screening in their first days of life.

Do not hesitate to consult an audiologist at any Lobe Santé auditive et communication multidisciplinary clinic for more information.