Hearing loss is one of the most common sensory disorders in the United States. The diagnosis of congenital hearing loss begins with the evaluation of hearing in newborns, which is best done with evoked auditory brainstem responses to avoid the risk of overlooking auditory neuropathy spectrum disorder. Sometimes, a thorough history and physical exam can help reveal the etiology of congenital hearing loss. The most useful diagnostic tests are diagnostic imaging studies, such as a computed tomography of the temporal bones or an MRI of the internal auditory canals without gadolinium, and genetic tests, in particular to detect connexin 26, connexin 30 and Pendred syndrome.
The treatment of congenital hearing loss involves adapting the amplification early. Early cochlear implantation, preferably before 2 years of age, should be seriously considered in children with severe bilateral hearing loss. Hearing aids are free of potential allergens or harmful chemicals, and they come in many different bright colors. Depending on the child's type and level of hearing loss, the size and style of the hearing aid may vary. Babies and younger children use a hearing aid to be placed behind the ear and a mold that fills the shell, or bowl, of the ear.
Children 10 years old and older can use a small unit behind the ear, with a thin tube and a small plastic dome in the ear canal. The roles of audiologists and speech-language pathologists (SLP) in providing (re) rehabilitation services for deaf and hard of hearing children can be complementary, interrelated, and sometimes overlapping. While OAEs can be used to infer hearing status, they cannot be used as a diagnostic measure of hearing ability. Most hearing aid manufacturers that sell pediatric hearing aids and cochlear implants also manufacture hearing aids to improve learning in the classroom. The audiologist will ensure that the molds fit your child's ears correctly and will program the hearing aids for your child's hearing loss.
By working closely with Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) programs and Part C programs of the Education for Persons with Disabilities Act (IDEA), audiologists and SLPs can help promote a smooth transition between diagnosing hearing loss and participating in interventional services. If your child has been diagnosed with hearing loss, pediatric hearing aids can be vital to oral language development and educational success. There are no absolute contraindications for fitting a pediatric hearing aid in a child with hearing who may benefit from hearing aids as determined by audiometry. In addition, at least one ABR is recommended to confirm hearing loss in any child younger than 3 years old with suspected permanent hearing loss. There is some support for alternative terminology, such as “reduced hearing” or “decreased levels of hearing”, to describe people who are born without the ability to hear. A careful history can reveal the etiology of congenital hearing loss, especially of nongenetic congenital hearing loss.
The ABR measurement provides information about the degree, type, and configuration of hearing loss and allows the audiologist to place a hearing aid on a baby when needed. If the child is in good shape as a baby, subsequent hearing tests will help quantify hearing ability in specific tones. See the ASHA Practical Portal pages on newborn and childhood hearing screening for more information on this topic. If your child has been diagnosed with hearing loss, pediatric hearing aids can be vital to oral language development and educational success.