What to do if you’re worried about your child’s hearing

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There are many different aspects of our children’s health and development that we worry about. These include whether they’re eating enough, putting on the right amount of weight, and hitting development milestones along with all of their peers.

One health aspect that doesn’t always necessarily occur to parents to consider is how good their child’s hearing is. If you’ve not given your child’s ability to hear any thought, then that’s generally a good sign that everything is fine.

When your child goes through their different childhood checks at the health centre, hearing tests are carried out with all the other checks.

It used to be that children’s hearing was not tested until they were 18 months or older, but it is now known that the earlier hearing loss is addressed, and the sooner appropriate treatment is given, then the better it is for the child’s development. So, there is now a newborn hearing screening programme (NHSP) in the UK. All newborns are given a routine hearing test, in order to help identify the one in every 900 babies who are born with some level of hearing loss. This screening process uses an Automated Otoacoustic Emissions (AOAE) test, which is carried out in the hospital or at home by a health visitor during a routine visit.

Further hearing tests are carried out when the child has his or her general review at 2.5 years, and again when they have another health review at four or five years before they start school. If you click here, you can find out more about hearing tests.

If, however, at any stage you have concerns about your child’s hearing, you can ask your GP to arrange a hearing test for them at any time. Indications that a child may need to have their hearing tested include:

• that they hear fine sometimes and then don’t respond at others

• that they want the TV on louder than the rest of the family does

• that they don’t seem to be paying attention

• that they start to speak more loudly than previously

• that they watch you intensely when you speak – this may mean they are looking for visual clues to interpret speech

• that their schoolwork begins to fall behind that of their classmates

You may not notice these signs mentioned above. You may just have a feeling that something is not right. Don’t worry about wasting the doctor’s time, act on instinct and get your child’s hearing checked out.

The most common way hearing loss is treated is through the use of a hearing aid, and today these are very sophisticated, and come in a range of different models according to the individual needs of the person who has hearing problems. However, this may not be necessary in your child’s case – many children who have a hearing problem turn out to be suffering from a temporary condition called glue ear, where mucus blocks the ear. But if they do have a more serious hearing condition, the earlier you address it and get them appropriate treatment, the better.

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