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Hears to a New (Y)ear!

Top 5 things parents need to know about pediatric hearing loss 

Today, it seems almost impossible to avoid increased noise exposure– loud music, noisy toys, vehicles, snow blowers, TVs, drills, hairdryers and more! Especially during this time of year full of celebrations and gatherings, it is a good opportunity to make sure that the youngest members of your family are prepared for the additional noise exposure.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 5 million young people between ages 6 and 19 in the U.S. have suffered permanent damage to their hearing from noise exposure. Hearing is critical for a child’s safety and development of speech, listening, learning, and social skills, so it is important to start monitoring their hearing as early as possible.

Your child may have passed a newborn screening prior to leaving the hospital, but parent should still continue to monitor and protect their hearing. Moreover, if an infant fails a screening, it is crucial to follow-up with additional hearing tests no later than three months of age.

“Missed follow-up visits are rapidly becoming one of the most common reasons children with hearing loss miss out on critical interventions and support,” said Benjamin Cable, M.D., Pediatric Otolaryngologist with Carilion Clinic. “Those interventions work to keep a child on a normal developmental path.”

As a parent or caregiver, be aware that exposing a child over time to anything louder than 85 decibels can cause damage to sensitive structures in the inner ear.

“In practical terms,” explained Dr. Cable, “Any environment where the background noise would require raised voices or shouting to communicate could potentially be damaging to children who are exposed for more than short periods of time.”

Noise-induced hearing loss is usually gradual and painless, but can be permanent. Once sensory nerve cells are damaged, they do not regenerate.

As one might expect, the risk of permanent damage is higher with longer exposure. Damage also occurs more quickly with increasing loudness. There are also non-auditory consequences of repeated noise exposure, including increased stress and irritability with reduced relaxation and concentration.

What can parents do to reduce their children’s risk of damage?

  • Avoid or limit exposure to loud sounds when possible.
  • When not possible, use hearing protection.
  • Noise-cancelling headphones are best for babies and children. Consider the child’s age as well as weight, size, comfort level and the noise cancellation rating of protectors.
  • Kids two years and under need earmuffs that are lightweight and will not put strain on neck muscles and bones. They will provide the highest level of noise cancellation.

Hearing loss including noise induced loss can be detected with a hearing test conducted by an audiologist. No child is too young for hearing testing. Agencies in the Roanoke Valley providing audiological services include:

  • Carilion Clinic Otolaryngology (540-224-5170)
  • Hearing Health Associates (540-774-4441)
  • Jefferson Surgical Clinic (540-283-6023)
  • The Hearing Clinic (540-553-8626)
  • Roanoke Valley Speech and Hearing Center (540-343-0165)

Visit www.ehdipals.org  for a national web-based directory of facilities providing pediatric audiology services.

For more information check out the following:
www.sightandhearing.org
www.HowsYourHearing.org
www.noisyplanet.nidcd.nih.gov/parents
www/asha.org/public/hearing/Noise/
www.tufitech.com/gadget/best-noise-cancelling-headphone-for-babies

About the authors: Debbie Williams, Molly Brown, Emily Guill, and Megan Harrison are speech-language pathologists at Carilion Children’s Pediatric Therapy.