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January 2, 2006

Hearing impairment can lead to problems for children

From: Centre Daily Times - Centre County,PA,USA - Jan 2, 2006

One in 1,000 U.S. babies is born deaf or is hearing-impaired, according to a 1997 study by the Institute of Hearing Research.

Hearing impairment covers the entire range of hearing loss, from mild or moderate to severe and profound.

Children who have the same degree of hearing loss may function quite differently from one another. One child with a severe hearing impairment may be hard of hearing, while another child with severe hearing impairment may be deaf.

Severe hearing loss can often go undetected until a child is 3 years old, while mild hearing losses often go undetected until ages 5 or 6. If hearing-impaired children are not identified early, it may be difficult for them to acquire language, social and learning skills that provide the foundation for schooling and success in society. With early diagnosis by an audiologic examination and the right treatment, hearing-impaired children can make dramatic progress.

These factors can put children at high for risk for hearing loss:

u Family history of childhood hearing impairment

u Infections during pregnancy, such as cytomegalovirus, rubella, herpes simplex, toxoplasmosis and syphilis

u Physical malformations of the head or neck

u Birth weight less than 3 pounds

u Jaundice

u Bacterial meningitis

u Lack of oxygen at birth

A hearing-impaired child's main problem is often learning to communicate through spoken language.

Children must send and receive messages in order to communicate. But in learning to talk and to understand others' conversations, these children may not hear a message clearly, may hear it at a reduced loudness level or may not hear it at all

These general guidelines regarding hearing abilities at specified ages can help you to detect a problem:

3 months

u Startle or awaken to loud sounds such as coughing, a dog barking or a vacuum cleaner

u Be soothed by mother's voice

6 months

u Smile when spoken to

u Turn his or her head in search of a sound or voice

u Recognize parents' voices

u Make cooing and babbling sounds

9 months

u Notice and search for familiar sounds

u Respond to his or her name and to the command "No"

12 months

u Be able to say one or two words and enjoy making sounds

u Turn head in any direction to find an interesting sound or a person talking

u Begin to respond to simple requests, such as "Do you want more?"

18 months

u Be able to say eight to 10 words, even if not clearly said

u Follow simple spoken directions

2 years

u Be able to say 20 to 25 words

u Put two words together, such as "More cookie?"

u Follow simple requests

Generally, children should make the following sounds:

u 3 to 4 years: m, b, n, t, p, k, d, g, w, h and vowels

u 5 to 6 years: sch, ch, l and l blends

u 7 years: v, j, th, s, z, r, s blends and r blends

Early detection of any hearing loss is the key to your baby's growth, development and future ability to communicate. If you think your infant or child might have a hearing problem, tell your pediatrician, who can make recommendations and schedule a hearing test.

A child's hearing can be assessed at any age, even shortly after birth by non-invasive, painless procedures. It's a law in several states, including Pennsylvania, that babies be screened for hearing loss at birth. Places such as Mount Nittany Medical Center have licensed audiologists who can assess hearing and middle-ear function and provide or direct parents to the appropriate care for their children.

Beverly Huff is a certified licensed audiologist at Mount Nittany Medical Center.

© 2006 Centre Daily Times and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.