The Importance of Hearing

The ability to hear is vital to a child's development...
Hearing makes it possible for a child to learn to recognize voices, imitate sounds and develop language. Hearing also helps children pick up danger signals, communicate, develop social skills and orientate themselves. Hearing is more than simply a part of the sensory apparatus; it plays an important role in forming the child’s personality and behaviour. In the past, before it became possible to correctly diagnose a hearing loss in a young child, it was not unusual for a hearing impaired child to be considered as having a learning disability and placed in a care facility. Fortunately, this does not happen anymore. Hearing loss has nothing to do with a lack of intelligence – but if hearing loss is not diagnosed and treated at an early stage, it can have a significantly negative impact on a child’s development. It is therefore important that hearing deficiencies are identified as early as possible. Significant delays in speech and language development can be avoided if amplification is provided early. The realization that a child has a hearing loss can be overwhelming to a parent. There is so much information to take in and so many questions to be asked and decisions to be made. And in addition to all of these practical concerns, there can be many emotional issues. It is important that parents strive to be open, positive and well informed, in order to provide the best possible conditions for their child. You and your family are a vital part of your child’s support team consisting also of hearing healthcare professionals, school staff and other professionals.

Parenting a Child with a Hearing Loss

Children are born with an open mind. Totally accepting...
the world around them, a hearing impaired child has no concept of being “handicapped,” unless he or she is made to feel that way. Humans are incredible at compensating for physical or mental shortcomings. In fact, each and every one of us has something – major or minor; be it poor vision, a weak constitution or a short temper. The impressions your child’s family and friends have about hearing impairment can have great influence on your child’s self-image and self-confidence. Your efforts to be well -informed, open, and supportive and, in general, positive about hearing loss, help your child to maintain the wonderfully open mind and positive attitude he or she was born with.

Getting the Help your Child Needs

As a parent, you have the opportunity to be involved...
in the professional care your child receives. You should expect very open communication with all professionals involved, and you should feel comfortable asking any questions at all and only settle for explanations which are in terms you clearly understand. The management of a child’s hearing loss poses a significant challenge to the hearing healthcare professional. It is an ongoing process which may involve some trial and error in the beginning until the best strategy is found. The final strategy – a combination of amplification type, communication method and training, teaching method, etc. – will be that which gives your child the best sound and the best opportunities for communication and learning. In short, the goal is optimum quality of life. And with the technology and skills available today, you and your child can expect a lot! Amplification of sounds is your hearing impaired child’s key to communication with the hearing world. In order to give your child optimum auditory stimulation, amplification should be implemented soon after diagnosis. Of course, amplification does not reverse the hearing loss, but it enables your child to hear sounds that otherwise would be too soft to hear.

Two Forms of

1. Hearing Aids The use of hearing aids enables your child...

to utilize his or her remaining hearing ability in order to optimize the perception of sound. Hearing aids provide amplification and special sound processing to help give your child an optimum representation of sounds which are found in a normal environment. 2. Cochlear Implants The cochlear implant is a miniature device, which enables children with profound hearing loss to perceive sound. The device includes an array of electrodes implanted within the cochlea of the inner ear. The electrodes generate electrical activity which is used to directly stimulate the auditory nerve. The auditory nerve then passes this information along to the hearing center of the brain. Because the implant is inserted within the inner ear, the implant inadvertently destroys any remaining inner ear cells. However, since children with bilateral profound hearing loss have no or very few inner ear cells, the elimination of these few remaining inner ear cells is warranted by the amount of hearing which will be provided by the cochlear implant. Thus implantation is usually recommended for children with profound hearing loss in both ears that have shown little prior success with hearing aids. Cochlear implantation can be a good alternative in this situation. The implantation rarely takes place before the child is 18 months old. Candidacy for a cochlear implant is also highly scrutinized.

Signs of Hearing

We have compiled a list of things in children's behavior...
that may indicate hearing difficulties. Children develop at their own individual pace, so while none of these are a sure sign that there is a problem, any of the following could indicate that your child is missing important aural information:

  • Failure to be startled by loud sounds

  • Inability to locate the source of sounds by, for example, turning the head towards the person speaking. Children with normal hearing will usually try and locate a sound source by around the age of 5-6 months
  • Generally requiring louder sound levels in order to function – sitting too close to the television, turning up the volume, frequently asking “what?” when spoken to and not responding when called
  • Babbling ceases or changes to more high-pitched screaming sounds at the age of around 6-8 months
  • Lack of normal response to sounds – does not respond to his or her own name by around the age of 6 months
  • Failure for babbling to evolve into recognizable speech sounds and finally to words during the child’s second year of life
  • Failure to respond to simple commands such as: “bring daddy the ball,” by around the age of 1 year, unless the child is looking directly at you and seeing your body movements
  • Withdrawing from social contact and perhaps “acting out,” aggressively. This can indicate frustration over the constant misunderstandings resulting from hearing loss
  • Frequently misunderstanding spoken directions.

Milestones for hearing development

It is very difficult to define “normal,” hearing development. Each individual develops in their own way and at their own pace. The milestones described below are therefore only to be considered as general guide- lines.


The human fetus possesses rudimentary hearing from...
20 weeks of gestation. This hearing will develop and mature during the remainder of gestation. The fetus is able to hear sounds from outside the mother’s body, although it can hear low frequency sounds much better than high frequency sounds.

0-4 months

Startled by sudden or loud sounds. Begins to localize sounds with eyes or head movements.

3-6 months

Shows interest in different sounds and experiments with making own sounds. Seemingly recognizes familiar voices.

6-12 months

Babbles. Begins to understand simple words such as “mummy” and “bye-bye”. Begins to follow simple instructions.

12-18 months

Words begin to form the babble. Can use about 20 words and understands around 50 words.

2 years

Can usually speak in simple sentences using a vocabulary of around 200-300 words. Enjoys being read to and can identify and name many things in picture books.

3-4 years

Uses words and sentences to express needs, questions and feelings. Vocabulary, pronunciation and understanding improve markedly during these years.

Which Hearing Ai Models are Suitable for Children?

Hearing aids must fit precisely to a child's ears in order to work...
optimally. Children have special requirements for hearing aids due to the size and physical changes to their ears as they grow. For young children the behind-the-ear (BTE) type of hearing aids are usually recommended because they are more robust, easier to operate and allow more effective daily removal of earwax. New earmoulds will need to be made as children grow and their ear canals change shape. Hearing aids are available in a variety of bright colors, which most young children prefer. At the time of adolescence, children may prefer more discreet models. This can be a help during teenage years when self-awareness of being “different” can be particularly difficult.

What Can Hearing Aids Do
for Children?

Hearing aids can help children with a hearing loss to develop...
normal language skills and to participate in school and social activities on equal terms with their friends. Hearing impaired people usually have difficulty distinguishing between speech and noise. This is particularly true with children, as their language is not yet fully developed, making it more difficult to fill in the unheard “gaps” by guessing. So children can benefit greatly from modern hearing aids that are designed to reduce disturbing noise while emphasizing the important sounds, such as speech. If your child has a hearing loss in both ears, it is important that your child is provided with two hearing aids. This binaural hearing aid fitting will make it easier for your child to understand speech in noisy situations.


Children spend much of their time in noisy surroundings such...
as playgroups, classrooms and playgrounds; long-term exposure to loud noise can cause temporary hearing loss, which can develop into a permanent loss.

It is important to minimize the amount of time children are exposed to noise: parents and teachers should make every effort to reduce the noise in children’s surroundings in order to create a good, healthy sound environment.

Help is near

Today there is a wide range of possibilities for helping people...
with hearing loss to optimize their hearing ability.

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