What is Hearing Loss and what can I expect for my Child?

UNDERSTANDING HEARING LOSS: DIAGNOSIS AND EVALUATION

When a hearing loss is first diagnosed, new parents might find the test results extremely confusing. Most parents go through a denial stage and ask themselves questions such as, "How can this be accurate?" or "My child is only a few days old… How can they tell my child can't hear?” This denial stage is very common and in many instances, parents try their own experiments by clapping their hands or hitting a pot and pan together. In some cases, the child might respond. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that child has normal hearing. There are various types of hearing loss that range from mild to profound. If a child has a mild to moderate loss, chances are, they will hear the pan or the clapping, but they might be not be hearing the higher frequencies. And the higher frequencies are very important for speech and understanding of speech.

THE AUDIOGRAM: WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

Audiologists are professionals. They specialize in hearing. They evaluate and diagnose hearing loss and perform hearing tests. The results from these tests are then plotted on an audiogram. Audiograms are different graphs that show hearing sensitivity at various levels of frequencies and intensities.The louder the sound needs to be in order to be heard, the greater the degree of hearing loss. The (dB) or decibel is the degree of loudness measured. The frequencies (pitches) tested are those that are important for hearing and understanding speech and other environmental sounds. Frequency is noted in Hertz (Hz).

VARIOUS DEGREES OF HEARING LOSS

After evaluation and diagnosis, parents are told what degree of hearing loss their child has and what dB (decibel) the hearing loss begins at. The following is a break down and explanation of the different degrees of hearing loss.

MILD HEARING LOSS:

(26-45 dB) Most often, can hear one-on-one conversation if they are listening in close range to the speaker. They might need to see the speakers face to have a clearer understanding of what is being said. They might have more difficulty hearing someone with a soft voice or who is speaking from a distance. Understanding conversations in noisy settings might also be difficult. For young children who are learning speech and language, even a mild hearing loss can have serious effects on speech and language development.

MODERATE HEARING LOSS:

(45-65 dB) Conversational levels of speech are difficult to hear and understand, even in quiet backgrounds. Speech has a muffled quality to it. Listening to conversations in noisy settings is very difficult for these individuals.

SEVERE HEARING LOSS:

(66-85 dB) Hearing for children in this category is difficult in all situations. Speech may only be heard if a speaker is talking loudly or at close range. Even at a close range, it isn't clear speech. Children with profound hearing loss may not hear speech at all or environmental sounds. Families of these children may need to use other methods for communicating such as ASL, SEE or may even choose to get a cochlear implant.