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With 1 in 1,000 babies born with some form of hearing loss, newborn screening can make a significant difference in how and when those babies receive treatment and/or therapy. But for hearing loss that comes later, parents have to trust their gut – and protect their own hearing as well.

Page Tucker, an audiologist with Bon Secours St. Francis Health System, said the earlier hearing loss is detected, the better. That’s true no matter what the age of the patient. For young children, hearing impairment can affect their language and speech. 

“Children start developing language in utero,” Tucker said. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about half of the cases of hearing loss in babies are due to genetic causes. Sometimes, drugs that are necessary to save a child’s life can carry a risk of hearing loss. 

“If there’s a high risk, they will refer you for follow up,” Tucker said. 

But hearing loss of unknown origin can occur over time and can be at any age. Some viruses can even contribute to hearing loss.

“If someone does experience sudden hearing loss, get to your physician immediately,” Tucker said. 

For those babies who have hearing loss detected at birth, Tucker said the goal is for them to have amplification and therapies by 6 months of age. Some may need hearing aids, others a cochlear implant. Speech and occupational therapy may be indicated. Tucker said respect for parents’ decisions is necessary, but early identification of hearing loss may mean children can be in mainstream classrooms. 

Hearing tests take about 10 – 15 minutes, Tucker said. She said parents know their children and should talk with their pediatrician if they have concerns, whether the issue is related to noticeable hearing loss or speech delays. 

“Trust your instincts,” Tucker said. “If you think there is a problem, get it checked. Never, ever think you are overreacting.”

Learn more about symptoms and causes of childhood hearing loss at https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/hearingloss.

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