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The sense of hearing is vital for a full and healthy life. However, up to 3 out of every 1,000 babies born in the United States has some type of hearing loss. This is often due to genetics but may also be due to medications, birth complications or infections. Because the sense of hearing is closely linked to numerous other fundamental parts of growth and development, including balance, motor skills and speech, it is imperative that parents learn how to detect if their little ones have issues with hearing or balance and that they know what professionals to contact if they suspect a problem.
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Parent Checks for Hearing
A parent or other caregiver is often the first person to notice if a baby or toddler is having an issue with hearing. For example, the parent may notice that the baby does not seem to be startled when there is a loud noise. Additionally, a three-month old baby should recognize a parent’s voice, and a six-month old baby should turn his or her head in the direction of a sound. As the infant grows, he or she should start saying simple sounds around one year of age, and the number of spoken words should continuously grow through the second year of life. If by two the child is not talking, the pediatrician will normally recommend that he or she see an audiologist.
Audiology Tests for Hearing
An audiologist is a professional who tests the hearing. Even very young children can have their hearing checked. The very first hearing test is typically performed while the newborn is still in the hospital. Professionals, like Utah audiologists, realize that these tests do not cause any pain. Newborns usually have what is called an otoacoustic emissions test or an automated auditory brainstem response test. In either test, sensors are used to determine the inner ear’s response to small sounds or the brain’s activity during a series of sounds. Children who are over the age of two have hearing tests performed in a fun environment. The test is usually associated with some type of play activity. Children who are older than four are usually asked to raise their hand when they hear a certain sound.
Parent Checks for Balance
Balance is often associated with the sense of hearing. Parents may notice that the infant has problems with crawling or walking at the appropriate ages or that toddlers fall often or walk stiffly. Older children may not want to get involved with sports or other physical activities and may have problems walking on uneven ground or going up steps.
Neurological Tests for Balance
Balance is often checked by the family physician, but if there is a problem, a neurologist may be referred to the family. The neurologist will perform a full physical but will focus specifically on the nervous system, including the five senses, reflexes and motor function. The neurologist will test how the child walks, skips and hops and will determine how well the child can stand upright with his or her eyes closed.
A variety of evaluations can accurately portray any difficulties a child may have with hearing or balance, ensuring that parents are not left in the dark over this matter. In addition, numerous therapies now exist to help children improve their balance while an increase in technology ensures that children with hearing loss have a high likelihood of being able to hear with the help of an assistive device. Because parents are often the first to notice if a child is having a problem with some aspect of growth and development, parents should be sure to share any of their concerns with the child’s physician.