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How Hearing Loss Can Change a Child’s Brain

Did you know that approximately 1.4 babies out of every 1000 have hearing loss, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 14.9% of children age 6 to 19 years have at least some hearing loss?  Whether it’s due to noise exposure, genetics and injury, or something else, early detection of hearing loss is critical.
Up until now, the focus has been on those children with deafness, but new research indicates that any level of hearing loss can affect a child’s brain and development.
The risk of hearing loss
Hearing loss in children can be a whole different ball game than hearing loss in adults. This is because children’s language and social development are so deeply rooted in hearing. Untreated hearing loss has been shown to impact social interaction and development, delay language and speech, and even leave children struggling academically. Early intervention is critical in avoiding these concerns.
But, do children with mild to moderate hearing loss face the same risks or just those with severe or profound hearing loss?
The research
New research led by Dr. Lorna Halliday, now at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, University of Cambridge, suggests that any level of hearing loss could lead to changes in how the brain processes sound. This, in turn, could pose developmental risks for the child.
The research team worked with 46 children diagnosed with mild to moderate hearing loss. An electroencephalogram (EEG) was used to measure their brain responses while they were listening to sounds. Dividing the children into two age groups (8-12 years old and 12-16 years old), researchers compared their results with those of children with normal hearing.
The results were not surprising. Those in the younger age group showed results similar to normal-hearing children their age, but those in the older group showed less response to sounds than those of normal-hearing children their age. The team repeated the test with the younger group several years later, finding consistent results. Their brain responses changed and were less than those of normal-hearing peers.
The team believes this is not due to a change in hearing loss but a change in how the brain works to hear sound with existing hearing loss.
“We know that children’s brains develop in response to exposure to sounds, so it should not be too surprising that even mild-to-moderate levels of hearing loss can lead to changes in the brain,” says Dr. Axelle Calcus, lead author of the paper, from PSL University, Paris. “However, this does suggest that we need to identify these problems at an earlier stage than is currently the case.”
The team believes that findings like these could help change how we diagnose children with hearing loss, and when hearing loss of any level is present, how we can better support them to foster strong language and social development.
If you believe your child has a hearing loss, contact our office to schedule a hearing evaluation today.
 
 

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Sonus Hearing Care Professionals is Proud to Support the Hearing Health Foundation

As the holiday season ends, we’re reminded of all the things we’re thankful for. Not only are we grateful to support our patients with their hearing concerns, but we appreciate the opportunity to help others in need. It’s not just the immediate people around us that can benefit from generosity; you can make a difference in the world no matter where you are.
At Sonus Hearing Care Professionals, we are a proud supporter of a variety of charities and noteworthy causes. This winter, we’ve extended our reach to support the Hearing Health Foundation. We’re committed to the welfare of others and are grateful that we can encourage this fantastic organization and the important work they’re doing.
Our staff thanks you for the gift you give us daily – being able to help you with your hearing needs. It’s what makes our job truly special.
Season’s greetings!

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Disaster Preparedness For People With Hearing Loss

Natural disasters come in many types. From simple power outages to fires, hurricanes, and tornadoes, natural disasters can exact a heavy toll. Being prepared for an emergency is an essential part of staying safe during difficult times. For those with hearing loss, there are extra challenges involving getting information and communicating with others during these trying times. Here are some emergency preparedness steps for those of you with hearing loss.

Hearing Loss-Friendly Weather-Alert Radio

Continuous weather information is accessible from the National Weather Service on a nationwide network called NOAA Weather Radio (NWR). You can receive hazard information for your area by looking for NWR receivers. The receivers have specialized connectors that can work together with security systems, shakers, pillow vibrators, and strobe lights.

Receive Reverse 911 Alerts

It is possible to receive text alerts with emergency information on your smartphone. This information includes instructions for evacuating or avoiding dangerous areas during environmental disasters. By signing up for this service, you can get life-saving information much sooner than on local news or social media.

Assemble Your Emergency Kit

Pack a bag in advance that contains everything you might need if a disaster occurs. Items should include emergency preparedness items specifically for people with hearing loss.

  • A 4-week supply of hearing aid batteries
  • Battery charger for cochlear implants
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Pen and paper for writing messages
  • A waterproof container for storing hearing aids
  • Battery removal tool
  • Dry kit
  • Telephone number of hearing healthcare professional
  • Batteries for any additional ALDs you may have

If you have a hearing dog, there are a few extra items to pack as well:

  • 1-2-week supply of food and treats
  • Water for at least 24 hours
  • Collar and leash
  • Service ID
  • Copies of dog’s immunization records

Train For A Disaster

Many communities now have programs that educate and prepare citizens for potential disasters. Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) programs teach necessary disaster response skills, fire safety, and medical operations. The classrooms and training environments are accessible to people with hearing loss. Some venues have assistive listening systems, while others offer amplified sound microphones or sign language interpreters.

Support Network

If you have a hearing loss and live alone, forming a support system is crucial. A small network of neighbors, friends, and family can work together during an emergency to ensure everyone stays safe and receives up-to-date emergency information. Please remember to inform your network about any health concerns, assistive listening devices, or medical supplies. This information is vital for responders who may help you during a disaster. You may consider using communication cards to communicate with rescue workers. These cards can alert a rescuer to your hearing loss and use images, symbols, and words to convey meaning.
If you have a hearing loss, it is essential that you take the time to prepare for natural disasters. Assemble a kit, sign up for alerts, and train for emergencies. Contact your hearing healthcare professional for additional tips and help for emergency preparedness.