Has my child’s hearing loss become worse?
A child’s hearing loss may change as they get older and with that the equipment and service they need changes too. While some changes may be temporary, a further loss of hearing can become permanent.
If you've noticed anything different about your child's hearing, your audiologist you can investigate the causes and advise you on the next steps. If you’re concerned, the first thing to do is book a hearing check.
Middle ear condition
A common cause of an increased hearing loss is a temporary middle ear condition (known as conductive hearing loss). Middle ear problems are very common in childhood and most are easily treatable. Causes include wax build-up, infection or trauma. Signs include ear ache or discharges along with increased hearing loss but consult your family doctor or ENT specialist for a proper diagnosis.
Inner ear damage
If your child’s hearing is getting worse and it’s not a middle ear problem, this may mean there is increased inner-ear damage (also known as sensorineural hearing loss). In most cases, this type of change is due to the same factors that originally caused your child’s hearing loss. These changes in hearing can either be sudden or gradual depending on the kind of damage. Your child should be getting regular hearing tests done by an audiologist so any changes to their hearing can be quickly and effectively acted upon.
If any deterioration in hearing is detected, your child’s audiologist will recommend you consult an ENT specialist to investigate the change. Sometimes these changes are medically treatable and early treatment can be important to reverse the deterioration.
Your child will no doubt be facing some difficulties from having an increased hearing loss. It’s important to remain supportive and be there for them during this time. Some steps you can take include:
Go to audiologist regularly - After the increased hearing loss has been detected it’s important to remain diligent in getting frequent hearing checks for your child. Changes and further hearing loss can occur over time and the sooner they are picked up on by a professional, the faster you can act and the less impact it can have on your child.
Communicate with your child - Depending on your child’s age, they may need to be made aware of their increased hearing loss. The way you talk, behave, and communicate with your child has tremendous impact on how they think and feel about themselves. Carefully explaining and creating a nurturing environment means your child will be more likely to engage and learn.
Go to a psychologist - Depending on the degree of hearing loss it might be helpful to seek additional professional help. A psychologist can assess your child's cognitive ability, learning style, and interpersonal skills. They help parents to establish realistic expectations and explore the impacts hearing loss has on the child and family. Your child's needs and abilities will change over time so a psychologist can help guide them as they progress through school. Additionally, you can seek counselling after diagnosis and at various times throughout your child's formative years to help develop strategies to manage these changing needs.
Stay informed - The more you know about your child’s hearing loss, the more help you can be to them. Your audiologist will be able to provide lots of resources and guidance but there are many other ways to be informed. Websites, online forums and meetups with other parents are great ways to stay in the loop, gain insights and tips and get a better understanding of your child’s hearing loss and the role you play.
Know the next steps - The degree of hearing loss your child experiences will determine what needs to happen next, whether they need language therapy, a cochlear transplant or assistive education. Your audiologist will recommend which services are the most appropriate for your child, but find out how soon these need to be implemented, any costs involved and what your child is or isn’t capable of.