Children’s hearing plays a critical part in a child’s development. Hearing problems can lead to delays with their language and speech development as well as problems at school and developing social skills.
At The Hearing Clinic we will initially assess your child’s hearing with a children’s hearing test. If there is a hearing impairment, we’ll create a personalised management plan to restore hearing or manage hearing loss in a way that supports your child’s development. Your child may be referred to an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist for surgical management of hearing loss. Alternatively, we can use a combination of hearing aids, The Listening Program, and strategies to manage auditory processing difficulties to help your child to improve their speech and language skills, communication, social skills, and overall confidence.
We can help to improve your child’s hearing, will help your child to improve their speech and language skills, communication, social skills, and overall confidence.
Indicators for hearing loss
You’re likely to be the first person to notice that your child is having hearing problems. They might not respond to you; they might take a long time to learn to speak or they may misunderstand you. You may also notice some of the following:
- Says “what?”, “pardon?”, or “huh?” frequently
- Does not always respond when called
- Appears inattentive or prone to daydreaming
- Has the TV set at a high volume
- Talks too loudly
- Has unclear speech or mispronounces words
- Becomes unsettled at school
- Is often tired, grumpy, frustrated, or overactive
- Struggles with reading, spelling and phonics
- Struggles to hear in background noise
Causes of hearing loss in children
Many factors can impact a child’s hearing, such as whether they were born prematurely, they have had a major illness or injury, they’re experiencing side effects of a medication they’re on, and more.
Auditory Processing Difficulties (APD)
Even when a child has normal hearing, they may still face challenges with listening and processing information. This is referred to as auditory processing difficulties (APD). APD can affect a child’s ability to learn, follow directions, read, engage in conversation, and reach their full potential.
Common signs include:
- Struggles to hear in background noise
- Mishears or misunderstands what is being said
- Cannot remember longer instructions
- Difficulty concentrating unless it is very quiet in the room
- Difficulty understanding accents and cannot follow fast speech
- Often daydreams
- Becomes unsettled at school
- Dislikes speaking on the phone
The NHS estimates that as many as one in 20 children may have some degree of auditory processing difficulty. Once diagnosed, APD can be managed through auditory training, remote microphone systems, classroom accommodations, additional support, and other strategies.
Glue ear in children
A very common hearing problem in childhood is glue ear, or a build up of thick, sticky fluid in the middle ear space which stops the eardrum from vibrating properly. Mild cases often clear up on their own and parents may not even realise their child is affected. Older children may express concern that their hearing is duller than it once was, or show signs such as turning up the television or radio, or frequently saying “pardon?” or “what?” when they’re spoken to. Younger children may become more irritable, pull at their ears, or be less responsive to certain noises.
Glue ear occurs when the Eustachian tube does not open and close properly, disrupting the regulation of air in the middle ear. When the tube becomes blocked, a sticky substance forms and stops the eardrum from vibrating. Glue ear can develop following a cold, flu, ear infection, or allergies, but it can occur at other times.
According to the NHS, an estimated one in five children develop glue ear around age 2, and approximately eight out of 10 children will have experienced at least one episode of glue ear by the time they are 10 years old. It often clears up on its own within three months, but may recur throughout childhood. When glue ear does not resolve itself on its own, it may interfere with speech and language development, confidence, social skills, or performance at school.
Treatment for glue ear
Treatment may include watchful waiting, the insertion of grommets or tubes in the ears, medication, or temporary hearing technology.
Otovent Glue Ear Treatment is another option that is a drug-free, non-invasive way to reduce symptoms of glue ear. It is a surgical balloon that your child blows up using their nose. The act of blowing it up usually opens the ear’s blocked tubes, enabling fluid to drain from the middle ear naturally.
Your child may also be referred to an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialist who will partner with your GP and The Hearing Clinic to support your child’s hearing health and provide necessary treatment, monitoring, and follow-up.
Treating children’s hearing health
If you are concerned about your child’s hearing, talk to your GP about a referral for a children’s hearing test and audiological assessment, or contact The Hearing Clinic directly to book an appointment. We make testing for children as fun and stress-free as possible.
Just as you take your child for regular checkups of their eyes and teeth, they should also have regular hearing tests. The Hearing Clinic can help you protect and manage your child’s hearing health.
Frequently Asked Questions
QHow the ear works for kids?
AWhen a child hears normally, sound is captured by their outer ear and travels down to the eardrum. Vibrations from the eardrum pass to the bones in the middle ear which work to increase the strength of the vibrations. These reach the inner ear where thousands of tiny hair cells release a chemical that tells the hearing nerve to send an electric signal to the brain which is translated into sound.
Problems with any part of a child’s hearing system, including their hearing brain can mean that they don’t hear as they should. Permanent hearing loss can happen because a child is born with damage to some part of their hearing system, or it can be the result of an illness or injury. Temporary hearing loss can happen as a result of an ear infection, glue ear or wax build up.
QHow to get a hearing test for a child?
AThe hearing of every newborn baby is tested shortly after birth to catch any problems early. However, hearing can change during childhood, so if you have any worries about your child’s hearing, it’s important to visit your doctor as soon as possible.
They will look in your child’s ears and discuss your concerns. The earlier a hearing problem can be identified and treated, the better the likely outcome for your child’s speech and language development. Alternatively, you can get in touch with us directly.
At The Hearing Clinic, we provide hearing tests for children aged three years and older. We aim to make your child feel comfortable, with simple and fun tests that help them to relax and feel in control of what’s happening.
QWhat causes ear infections in children?
AUnfortunately the parts of the middle ear that drain fluid (called the Eustachian tubes) don’t drain as well in children as in adults, so if these fill with mucus during a cold it can create a perfect breeding ground for bacteria.
When bacteria builds up in fluid behind the eardrum it can lead to painful inflammation and an ear infection. These are one of the most common reasons why parents take their kids to a doctor. Happily, ear infections can be treated using antibiotic medicines or ear drops.
QHow to remove ear wax in children?
AEarwax protects the ear canal and eardrum from bacteria, dirt and dust that can cause infection. Earwax usually makes its way out of the ear by itself, where it falls out or comes out when you have a bath or shower. Sometimes children’s ears can make too much earwax, which can temporarily affect their hearing.
Please don’t attempt to remove the wax at home as you risk damaging the ear canal and the child’s hearing. Book an appointment with The Hearing Clinic for wax removal. It’s a quick and painless process in most cases.