My baby is deaf, what now?

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Published On: 5 Apr 2022Categories: Articles, Deaf Awareness

MY BABY IS DEAF, WHAT NOW?

Hearing loss

Early intervention is key to enabling natural development of Deaf and hard-of-hearing infants. If you suspect that your baby doesn’t hear properly then get help right away. The first few years of a child’s life are when language is acquired, and if he or she is not exposed to sound, speech will not develop naturally. Ideally the child should be screened by the age of one month, diagnosed by three months and be on the HI HOPES programme by six months. Look out for tell-tale signs that your baby does not hear properly, and arrange to have him or her screened by an audiologist.

HOW WILL MY CHILD’S HEARING BE TESTED? 

There are several different tests that may be conducted.

Otoacoustic Emission Testing (OAE)
A small probe is placed in the child’s ear canal. A tone is sent into the ear and an echo is recorded from a healthy cochlea. Absence of an echo indicates a problem. This test requires no response from the child and is used as a screening procedure.

Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) 
Electrodes that measure the brainstem’s electrical response to sound are attached to the child’s head. The tester then determines the softest sound that will get a response from the brainstem. Older children need to be sedated for this test as movement affects results.

Behavioural Observation Audiometry (BOA) 
Hearing is tested by watching for changes in the child’s behaviour in response to sound. A sound is presented through speakers and a response like a blink, smile or startle may be an indication that the sound was heard.

Older children can be tested using Visual Response Audiometry: the child turns his or her head in response to a sound presented from a speaker and receives visual reinforcement, or Play Audiometry: the child responds to sound presented through earphones by playing a game, e.g. putting a peg in a board when they hear a sound, or Pure tone Audiometry: the child wears headphones and lifts his/her hand when a sound is heard.

WHAT CAUSES HEARING LOSS IN A CHILD?

A baby may be born Deaf, lose his or her hearing as a result of meningitis or an ear infection, or the cause may be hereditary.

The ear has three parts: the outer ear is made up of the pinna (what you see on the outside of the head) and ear canal; the middle ear comprises the eardrum, middle ear bones and Eustachian tube; and the inner ear is made up of the cochlea (organ of hearing), semi-circular canals (help with balance) and part of the auditory nerve.

Depending on the part of the ear that is affected, there are different treatment options.

  • Conductive hearing loss is caused by problems in the outer/middle ear. There is an interference with the transmission of sound through the outer and middle ear but sounds still reach the cochlea. Softer sounds will not be heard, and sound quality may be compromised. This type of hearing loss can often be treated medically or surgically.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by problems in the inner ear including the cochlea and auditory nerve. Most common cause is damage to hair cells in the cochlea so that nerve cells cannot send signals to the brain. This is a permanent hearing loss and cannot be treated medically/surgically.
  • Central hearing loss– sound is transmitted to the auditory nerve but it is not processed normally along the auditory nerve and/or in the brain.

CAN YOUR CHILD HEAR YOUR VOICE? 

Look out for these early warning signs …

Age Behaviour
Birth Is your child startled by loud noises?
Does your child coo and gurgle?
3 months Does your child smile when spoken to?
Does your child babble?
6 months Does your child turn towards the side where the sound is coming from?
Has your child started experimenting with sound?
9 months – 1 year Does your child look up when you call?
Does your child create “speech-like” sounds with single syllables strung together, da-da-da-da?
1 – 2 years Does your child understand simple phrases?
Does your child have a vocabulary of between 20 and 50 words and use short phrases? “no more” “daddy up”
2 – 4 years Does your child understand conversation easily?
Does your child use 2–3-word sentences?
4 – 6 years Does everyone who knows your child, think he/she hears well?
Is your child able to convey information and ask questions?

 

If you answered “NO” to any of these questions, it is highly recommended that you seek advice immediately.

For further information and / or help, contact Hi Hopes: https://www.hihopes.co.za/

Herewith MORE information

Source: March of Dimes – https://www.marchofdimes.org/complications/hearing-loss-and-your-baby.aspx

Key points

  • Hearing loss is a common birth defect that can affect a baby’s ability to develop speech, language, and social skills.
  • Hearing loss can happen when any part of the ear isn’t working in the usual way.
  • Most babies get their hearing checked as part of newborn screening before they leave the hospital after birth.
  • If you think your baby may have hearing loss, tell your health care provider right away.
  • Early treatment for hearing loss is important for your baby’s health and development.

HOW IS HEARING LOSS TREATED?

Treatment depends on your baby’s overall health and the cause of the hearing loss. If your baby has hearing loss, it’s important to start treatment as soon as possible and before she’s 6 months old. This can help her develop speech, language and social skills. Treatment may include:

Cochlear implant. This is a small electronic device that can help some babies with severe or profound hearing loss. One part of the implant sits on the head behind the ear. The other parts are placed inside the ear during surgery. The part behind the ear sends sounds to the parts inside the ear. Babies as young as 1 year old may get a cochlear implant. It doesn’t give a baby complete hearing, but it can give a baby a sense of sound. Hearing through a cochlear implant is different from normal hearing. Specialists, like audiologists and speech therapists, can help your baby learn to hear through the implant and develop her speech, language and social skills.

Ear tubes. These are tiny tubes placed through the eardrum. Ear tubes allow air into the middle ear and prevent fluids from building up behind the eardrum. Your child may need ear tubes if:

  • She gets a lot of ear infections (about three or more in 6 months or four or more in 1 year)
  • She has fluid buildup and inflammation (redness and swelling) behind the eardrum
  • If she has hearing loss due to ear infections

Hearing aid. Hearing aids make sounds louder. Hearing aids can help babies as young as 1 month old. If your baby has severe or profound hearing loss, a hearing aid may not help.

Learning special language skills. Children with hearing loss may need special language skills to communicate with others. For example, some may learn American Sign Language (also called ASL) to communicate. ASL uses the shape, placement and movement of hands, along with facial expressions and body movement, to communicate.

Medicines, including antibiotics. If your child has an ear infection that causes hearing loss, her health care provider may prescribe an antibiotic like amoxicillin. Her provider also may suggest over-the-counter (also called OTC) medicines to help with fever and pain. These medicines may include ear drops, acetaminophen (brand name Tylenol®) and ibuprofen (brand names Motrin® or Advil ®).

Speech therapy. This is therapy to teach your child how to speak more clearly or communicate in other ways. Speech-language pathologists (also called speech therapists) are professionals who can help children learn how to make sounds, improve their voices and interact with others.

 Surgery. Surgery can sometimes correct problems with the structure of the outer and middle ears.

HOW CAN YOU PREVENT HEARING LOSS IN YOUR BABY?

Some types of hearing loss, like hearing loss caused by gene changes, can’t be prevented. But you can help prevent hearing loss related to other causes, like infections and premature birth.  Here’s what you can do:

 Before pregnancy

  • Get a preconception checkup. This is a medical checkup you get before pregnancy to help make sure you’re healthy when you get pregnant.
  • Make sure your vaccinations are up-to-date. Talk to your provider about vaccinations you need before you get pregnant. For example, you may need the MMR vaccination that protects you from measles and rubella.
  • Get checked for infections, like STIs. Early testing and treatment can help you have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

During pregnancy

Go to all of your prenatal care checkups. Prenatal care is medical care during pregnancy. At each prenatal care visit, your health care provider checks on you and your growing baby. Getting early and regular prenatal care can help you have a healthy pregnancy. Go to all your checkups, even if you’re feeling fine.

Protect yourself from infections. Here’s what you can do:

  • If you need vaccinations, get them. Ask your provider about vaccinations that are safe to get during pregnancy.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water after using the bathroom or blowing your nose.
  • Have safe sex. This means having sex with only one person who doesn’t have other sex partners. If you’re not sure if your partner has an STI, use a barrier method of birth control. Barrier methods include male and female condoms and dental dams. A dental dam is a square piece of rubber that can help protect you from STIs during oral sex.
  • Don’t eat undercooked meat.
  • Don’t touch cat poop.

After birth

Take your baby to all his well-baby checkups. At these checkups, your baby’s provider checks your baby’s overall health, growth and development. Your baby also gets vaccinations to help protect her from harmful infections.

Get early treatment for ear infections. If you think your baby has an ear infection, call his provider right away. Signs and symptoms of ear infection include:

  • Tugging on ears
  • Having trouble hearing or sleeping
  • Crying more than usual, especially when your baby is lying down
  • Having balance problems
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Fluid coming out of the ears

Keep your baby away from loud sounds. Close windows and doors in your home to limit loud sounds near your baby. Keep TV and radio volumes low. Give your baby quiet toys or toys with volume control set to the lowest volume. Don’t take your baby to noisy events, like concerts or fireworks shows. If you do take your baby to a loud place, use earplugs or earmuffs to limit noise. If your baby is covering his ears or looks uneasy in a noisy place, it’s probably best to leave.

Useful links:
https://www.netcare.co.za/News-Hub/Articles/netcare-launches-first-national-newborn-hearing-screening-programme-in-south-africa

https://www.netcarehospitals.co.za/News-Hub/News/breaking-the-silence-on-deafness