By Katherine Melson, Speech-Language Pathologist

Hearing is an important foundation for your child’s communication. Through hearing, a child is able to learn sounds of low and high frequencies that become the foundation of speech as well as learn language as he/she gains new experiences. Hearing equips children to have the ability to fully thrive in their environments to the best of their abilities. According to Understanding Auditory Development and the Child with Hearing Loss by Christina Barris Perigoe, PhD, and Marietta M. Paterson, EdD, “observations of [children’s] speech and spoken language output can be an indicator of the auditory input they are receiving and how they are processing that input.” Therefore, it is crucial that we protect the hearing of children as they develop and learn because “if auditory input is compromised, then spoken language output will be negatively impacted” (Perigoe & Paterson, n.d.). Further, the America Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) stresses that hearing loss can affect children in more ways than just speech and their receptive and expressive communication skills. According to ASHA, “the language deficit [from hearing loss] causes learning problems that result in reduced academic achievement.” Even more, a deficit in communication that a child with hearing loss exhibits often leads to social isolation, poor self-concept, and a possible impact on vocational choices (ASHA, 2018).

The foundation of language begins in the womb, as a child begins hearing his/her mother’s heartbeat, the inflection of her voice, and the rhythm of her speech. Research has shown that a typically developing child is exposed to auditory stimuli 20 weeks prior to birth (Perigoe & Paterson, n.d.). Once a child is born, it important to expose him/her to language by talking to them about anything that you or the child is doing, singing, showing them books/reading, and exposing the child to new environments. Because of hearing, a child is able to learn from these exposures that parents and caregivers offer them. As the saying goes, children do “learn by doing”, but they also learn by hearing.

Therefore, we must be an advocate for children and their hearing that is crucial to their development. Knowing what causes hearing loss is the foundation for being an advocate for hearing protection. According to ASHA, the following instances can be a cause for hearing loss in children:

  • Ear infections (otitis media)
  • Ototoxic drugs
  • Meningitis
  • Measles
  • Encephalitis
  • Chicken pox
  • Influenza
  • Mumps
  • Head Injury
  • Noise exposure

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorder (NIDCD), “five out of six children experience ear infections by the time they are 3 years old, and one out of eight people in the U.S. (30 million) age 12 years or older has hearing loss in bother ears, based on standard hearing examination” (NIDCD, 2016). In order to help prevent hearing loss from happening, below is a list of ways that you can be an advocate of your child’s hearing and prevent hearing loss:

  • Get hearing checked frequently
  • Prevent ear infections/take care of ear infections right away
  • Keep noises down
  • Use ear protection in noisy environments that are age-appropriate for your child
  • Seek medical help for illnesses listed above that can affect hearing
  • Further recommendations by The Hearing Journal by Frank Wartinger, AuD:
    • Teach children to respect their hearing
    • Know when a sound is dangerously loud
      • Sound-level meter mobile apps
      • Set password protected volume limits as appropriate for your child
    • Set time limits
  • Set listening rules
    • Below 80% volume setting
    • Daily listening limit time to 90 minutes
    • Arm’s length rule
      • If a listener cannot hear someone speaking from an arm’s length away, then the music he/she is listening to may be set too loud
    • Age-appropriate hearing protection
      • Purchase earmuffs that tailor to your child’s head in order to provide adequate protection
      • For kids that do not tolerate traditional, big earmuffs, a parent can buy adjustable elastic head-band style earmuffs that still benefit the child

Not only can you be an advocate by knowing what causes hearing loss in children and taking action to prevent hearing loss, but you can also be an advocate by watching for concerning signs. Below are signs to be looking for, recommended by Better Hearing Institute.

  • Concern by others that a child is not quick to hear things
  • Delays in development of speech and use of language as compared to others a child’s age
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Difficulty responding to his/her name
  • Difficulty with academic performance
  • Signs of lip reading
  • Frequently uses “what?” or “huh?”
  • Difficulty understanding speech when there is background noise
  • Not responding to sudden, loud noises
  • Unable to decipher where a sound is coming from
  • Trouble hearing during a phone conversation

If a loss is suspected, it is important to talk to your child’s doctor or see an audiologist right away. For more information, read more on the following reference websites:

Pin It on Pinterest