You may think your child isn’t listening to you, but in fact, he or she may not hear you.
Twelve percent of U.S. children between the ages of 6 and 19 suffer from noise-induced hearing loss – that’s about 5.2 million children – according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
About 2 to 3 out of every 1,000 U.S. children are born with a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears.
Many hearing experts have suspected that long-term hearing loss begins in childhood and now studies have shown how common hearing impairment is among kids.
"Historically, people have been looking only at adult hearing loss and assuming that this is not a problem among children," said Amanda Niskar, a nurse at the CDC and lead author of a study released last summer. "What we have found here for the first time is that this is not true. [Hearing loss] is a progression, and it starts when you're very young."
Some hearing experts say the problem of hearing loss in kids will likely worsen, considering rising levels of environmental noise.
One of the most common contributors to kid’s hearing loss is loud music. Regular exposure to loud noises can damage nerve cells in the ear called hair cells. As the name suggests, these cells have tiny hairs that detect sound vibrations and turn them into signals sent to the brain. But while soft noises only cause the hairs to vibrate, loud noises can break them.
Brief instances of exposure to loud noise may only temporarily damage these hairs. Niskar said two hours of loud music on headphones or seven minutes next to the speakers at a rock concert result in damage that may last for only a few days. However, chronic exposures can damage the hair cells — and hearing — permanently.
Loud toys can also cause hearing impairment. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASLH) discusses toy noise on their website www.asha.org.
“Some toys are so loud that they can cause hearing damage in children. Some toy sirens and squeaky rubber toys can emit sounds of 90 dB, as loud as a lawn mower. Workers would have to wear ear protection for similarly noisy sounds on the job.
The danger with noisy toys is greater than the 90-dB level implies. When held directly to the ear, as children often do, a noisy toy actually exposes the ear to as much as 120 dB of sound, the equivalent of a jet plane taking off. Noise at this level is painful and can result in permanent hearing loss.
Toys that pose a noise danger include cap guns, talking dolls, vehicles with horns and sirens, walkie-talkies, musical instruments, and toys with cranks. Parents who have normal hearing need to inspect toys for noise danger.
Before purchasing a new toy, listen to it. If the toy sounds loud, don’t buy it.”
Good advice to help protect your child’s hearing.
What are the signs and symptoms of hearing loss in kids? Each child is different, but there are some symptoms such as:
Signs in Babies
• Does not startle at loud noises.
• Does not turn to the source of a sound after 6 months of age.
• Does not say single words, such as “dada” or “mama” by 1 year of age.
• Turns head when he or she sees you but not if you only call out his or her name. This sometimes is mistaken for not paying attention or just ignoring, but could be the result of a partial or complete hearing loss.
• Seems to hear some sounds but not others.
Signs in Children
• Speech is delayed.
• Speech is not clear.
• Does not follow directions. This sometimes is mistaken for not paying attention or just ignoring, but could be the result of a partial or complete hearing loss.
• Often says, “Huh?”
• Turns the TV volume up too high.
If you suspect your baby may have a hearing problem, make sure that he or she has a hearing screening. It’s easy and not painful. Older children should have their hearing tested before entering school any time there is a concern about the child’s hearing. Children who do not pass the hearing screening need to get a full hearing test as soon as possible.
With Christmas and holiday shopping in full swing, make sure to test the toys you buy for your child if they produce a noise and check to see that they are not too loud for your little one to be around.
Hearing loss can affect a child’s performance in school and personal relationships. If you have any suspicions that your child is having difficulty hearing the sooner he or she is checked, the better. There are many excellent therapies for hearing loss now as opposed to even a decade ago.
Sources: Dan Childs, http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=117355