There are certain sounds that are important for us to hear for our survival, our development and our happiness. We need to hear the footsteps of the tiger creeping up behind us. If we cannot hear all of those sounds, or hear them too softly, communication suffers or speech and language delayed. We might also miss cues from our surroundings that help us feel safe and confident, as well as those that bring us joy.
A hearing loss may be mild or complete, permanent or temporary, and in one or both ears. It may require different treatments depending on what is causing it. And, depending on who you are, the same hearing loss may affect you differently than someone else, just because of your personality, and your strengths and weaknesses.
The ears are the listening doorway to the brain. The brain only grows and gets stronger if it is stimulated. A hearing loss or central auditory processing difficulty creates decreased or faulty stimulation. Studies have shown that if a hearing loss is allowed to persist for more than three years without some type of help, it will be much more difficult for the brain to recoup its previous ability to use sound efficiently.
In children who have not yet learned speech and language, there is a window until about age 3 years where the brain is most primed for learning. It is most advantageous for a child to have good hearing or help with hearing and language learning as soon as possible. If concerns about hearing arise in an older child due to listening, learning or behavior problems, ruling out hearing loss or central auditory processing disorder as soon as possible may ensure that the child gets the appropriate assistance.
Hearing screenings can often be performed at the primary care physician's office for older children and adults. If the hearing screening is not passed, or concerns continue, hearing can be more completely evaluated by an audiologist. Children should be seen by a pediatric audiologist any time there are concerns about hearing. A child's hearing is too important to their development to allow a concern to linger. Children and adults can sometimes have normal hearing, but their auditory nervous system does not use the information the ears let in as well as needed. This is called a central auditory processing disorder.
Who should check hearing?
How does someone know if they have a hearing loss?
Often people do not know that they or their loved ones have a hearing loss. It can come on suddenly, or it can be a very gradual change that is not easily noticed. Some signs include having to turn up the TV, having to ask for repetition, not understanding teachers or lecturers, difficulty hearing on the phone, difficulty listening in noisy situations, to name a few.
In children, depending on their age and stage of development, it can be hard to figure out. Difficulty with speech/language development, problems following directions, high frustration levels in communicating, saying "huh?" often, not responding when called, can all be signs of hearing difficulties.
The most basic rule of thumb for ANYONE with concerns of hearing loss is:
Why should hearing be checked as soon as possible?
What exactly is hearing loss?