Sunday, August 7, 2011

Pediatric hearing loss

Research estimates of newborn incidence of hearing loss are between 1 and 6 children per 1000 live births.

I don't think that I ever told you guys that I'm the pediatric audiologist at my practice. Also, I'm contracted out to work for the public schools. I see mostly adults because it's a small town and there just aren't that many kids with hearing loss. But I see all the kids that need hearing aids. I have maybe 50 kids (at any given time, because you know...they get older) birth to age 18 with permanent hearing loss under my care and probably another 25 that are awaiting some other treatment be it surgery or a cochlear implant or just further evaluation.  I'm very proactive about these children wearing hearing aids even with mild degrees of hearing loss as hearing aids can help prevent other delays such as language, speech, and comprehension delays.

If you can't can't learn to speak, at least not without a lot of therapy.
The youngest child I have fit was 12 weeks old (born 8 weeks early this was 4 weeks age adjusted).

Many parents with infants with permanent hearing loss are just happy their children are alive as they typically have had many other problems often due to prematurity. Often it is the medications they were given for these other problems that were ototoxic (toxic to the ears causing hearing loss). Sometimes it's tons of ear infections that have lead to permanent hearing loss due to scarring on the eardrum. Sometimes it's genetic and the loss is somewhat expected.

Whatever caused the hearing loss has typically been diagnosed by the time the child sees me. The parents are prepared for what I have to tell them, but it's a lot of information at once. I let them know that I'm aware that the diagnosis of hearing loss sucks, but I try to convince them that their child will be ok, they will grow up, go to school and get a job and likely (but as we all know so well is not for sure) have a family. will be a lot of hard work on their part.

This part is what gets me a little bit, but only because I live in the infertile world. I know I would, and I'm sure any one of you reading this would, do anything in the world for your child, that is if we could just have one. It's the slacker parents, the ones who don't take notes or follow through with instructions just get to me. I want to shake them and yell at them "Don't you get it! This is a big deal! You need to do this NOW!" Hearing loss will affect their child's intelligence and success in school, it will affect their social interactions and ability to make friends, it will affect them now and as adults, yet it's a perfectly treatable diagnosis!

The parents that do follow through with my instructions really deserve a medal though with an awards ceremony and all. Again, hearing loss is often not the only problem their child has, but rather is one of many and for sure is not the easiest to deal with. They learn sign language to assist in speech development. They take their children to countless appointment and let strangers into their homes to do therapy. Sometimes it's not just one of their children that has hearing loss. I have one family where 3 out of 7 of their children wear hearing aids and a fourth child has a dead ear, they never miss an appointment and all wear their hearing aids consistently. I have another family who has 2 out of 4 children with progressive hearing loss (they will likely go deaf before they are 18) and although it sort of embarrasses the kids now, she signs to them all the time, even in public so that they don't miss out on anything.

The reason I decided to write about all this is because of a baby I just saw the other day. The mom, who is young (although this isn't always a factor as I have a set 17 and 18 year old parents who are great about following through), brought in her 7 month old son (who was born at 31 weeks gestation) in due to permanent hearing loss. We do not have an official diagnosis as they are still undergoing genetic testing and a few other tests, but it is for sure a permanent hearing loss. She wanted to wait for the official diagnosis before getting hearing aids which could take months if it even has an official diagnosis that can be found.  After an hour and a half of counseling I got her to agree to a loaner program that will loan hearing aids out 3 months at a time for kids birth to age 3 who are awaiting a diagnosis, surgery or insurance payment. I also got her to agree to have someone from the state school for the deaf come to her house for therapy.

This is the type of child I work for, one who's parents need a lot of help, who's parents will benefit from my education, experience and counseling. For an instant though I wanted to take that baby from her (crazy infertile thought I know).


  1. This is such an important job you do. And every parent should be grateful for the help and do what's best for their child. Interesting to read more about what you do =)

  2. Wow, I had no idea that this is what you do. So interesting! I'm sure there are a lot of difficult cases, but I'm glad you're there to help your patients and their parents along. It sounds like you're really great at what you do!


If you can relate to this post or have an opinion about it, please leave a comment.

I do read everyone of them and look forward to hearing what you have to say.