For many of us, we wonder if that temporary head cold we have is causing us to not hear well. We think maybe when the cold subsides, our hearing will get better again too. Some of us, may realize or think that we are just not hearing as well as we used to. Some of us may have been involved in an accident or exposed to a traumatic incident (such as an explosion) where our hearing has been affected suddenly. Whenever you notice a change in your hearing always seek the care of an ENT and audiologist. It is very important to rule out any causes for concern. Most importantly, to monitor your hearing and find out what is causing the hearing loss and how it can be helped.
Younger Children, Teens, and Adults
Ask your audiologist to conduct a hearing exam to determine what level of hearing loss you now have. By knowing this information, this can help you, your audiologist and ENT determine how to proceed and how to help you best. Also, this type of information can help your ENT determine what type of hearing loss you have and if a CT scan may be required in order to rule out any other risks. It is always possible that your hearing loss can improve again, especially, if detected early enough. One example could be finding a growth inside your ear, such as a cholesteatoma (a build up of tissue cells that is often benign, but can cause hearing loss due to causing pressure on areas inside the ear) and by simply removing the cholesteatoma your hearing may improve to where it once was. However, if left undetected, some growths, including a cholesteatoma, may cause permanent hearing damage resulting in total deafness. It is very important that you take your hearing seriously.
Once seeking the care of an audiologist and ENT, you can then be informed and educated on what kind of hearing loss you have developing or if it will result in permanent hearing loss. You can also find out what options you have such as surgical options or hearing aids. Then, you can get back to your life.
Newborn Children and Toddlers
Following the delivery of your child or shortly after, your child should have a newborn hearing screening conducted. This screening is a hearing test that your child will either pass or fail in each ear. If your child fails the hearing screening in one ear, you will then be referred to see an audiologist and an ENT for further testing. Your pediatrician should suggest scheduling appointments with both an ENT and an audiologist. Once scheduling an appointment with your audiologist, a series of hearing exams will be conducted, mainly an ABR test. An ABR (Auditory Brain Response) test is a test where the audiologist will hook up electrodes to your child’s forehead and behind each ear which will measure the electronic responses that are recorded from the hearing nerves and brain. The results of this test should be able to tell you how much of a hearing loss your child has. This will tell you how much he/she is hearing or not hearing in decibels (dB). In addition to the ABR test, your audiologist will also conduct other hearing tests such as:
- AEP (auditory evoked potential evaluations)
- ASSR (auditory steady state response evaluations)
- SAT (speech awareness threshold)
- VRA (visual reinforcement audiometry)
- DP(OAE) and the TE(OAE) which are both auto-acoustic evaluations.
Following an ABR, also schedule an appointment with your ENT so that he/she can review the results with you and examine your child for further review to rule out any other possible issues related to hearing loss. Speak with him/her about the possibility of hearing aids. Your ENT may speak with you about having a CT Scan taken so he can take a closer look at what is going on inside the ear(s).
Look for Delays
Some children, depending on how young they are, may begin experiencing speech and communication delays. If you believe your child is experiencing delays with their speech, contact an early intervention service provider through your state if your child is under the age of three. An early intervention coordinator will visit your home and conduct an evaluation of your child to determine where he/she is at, regarding their communication skills. If your child qualifies, he/she can begin receiving speech therapy (or physical and occupational therapy) services. If your child is older than the age of 3 and already in school, and you realize that he/she is beginning to struggle in school because of their hearing loss, contact the school district and look into an IEP or a 504 Plan. These plans can help your child get the most out of school (see our IEP and 504 Plan Section on this site).
Below are some helpful organizations that can help you learn how to help your child and yourself as an adult with a hearing loss:
Schools for the Deaf and Blind
The House Research Institute: www.hei.org
The Hearing Loss Association: www.hearingloss.org
Child Find – Early Intervention Services: www.childfindidea.org
Birth 2 3 Organization - Early Intervention Services: www.birth23.org
Global Foundation for Children with Hearing Loss: www.childrenwithhearingloss.org
The Hands & Voices Organization: www.handsandvoices.org
Audiology Online: www.audiologyonline.com
Educational Audiology Association: www.edaud.org