Hearing health 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’ll assess your child’s hearing. If there is a hearing impairment, we’ll create a personalized 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 specialist for surgical management of hearing loss.. Or, with the help of hearing aids, The Listening Program, and strategies to manage auditory processing difficulties, we can 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 over-active.
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 in Children
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. Children may become frustrated, upset, anxious, or disheartened because it requires a great deal of effort to hear, process, and understand what’s being said.
Parents or teachers may notice that a child seems to be struggling with listening and understanding. This can be the first step in detecting APD. 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. It may be noticed in early childhood or may not become evident until the child is in school. Assessments include discussing your child’s listening abilities in different environments such as at home, school, and in social settings. Testing is carried out in a fun and playful way so your child feels comfortable and participates to the best of their ability. Once diagnosed, APD can be managed through auditory training, FM systems, classroom accommodations, additional support, and other strategies. Children can excel in school despite APD and build their confidence and self-esteem in communicating and interacting with others.
There are many fun auditory training activities you can do with your child at home to support their hearing. This includes games such as:
- Listening to audio books and discussing the content.
- Practicing following multi-step auditory directions through a silly serious of events such as touching their nose, then jumping up and down five times, then going upstairs to get a stuffed animal while singing a song.
- Having your child copy the sound patterns you make alternating between loud and soft, short and long, or high and low pitches.
- Discriminating between certain sounds or words by clapping when they hear the correct one or matching pairs.
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 balance of fluid and 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 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 opens the ear’s blocked tubes, enabling fluid to drain from the middle ear naturally. You 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 an audiological assessment, or contact The Hearing Clinic directly to book an appointment. The Hearing Clinic provides comprehensive testing for children and adults. We make testing for children as fun and stress-free as possible. Through examining the ear canals and ear drums, assessing ability to hear certain sounds or pitches, or testing speech in loud and quiet environments, we can determine your child’s hearing health and abilities.
One strategy we use to test hearing is conditioned play audiometry (CPA), also known as a “listen and drop” game. Children are asked to hold a toy, block, pebble, or other small object up to their ear and then drop it in a bucket when they hear the sound. Another variation is to put a ring on a ring stand when the noise is heard. We practise first to ensure they understand how to play, then begin the testing using auditory cues. Children have fun waiting to hear the sound and then making noise when they drop the toy into the bucket.
Just as you take your child for regular checkups of their eyes and teeth, they should also have their hearing checked. The Hearing Clinic can help you protect and manage your child’s hearing health.