According to the National Institute of Health, two to three of every 1,000 children in the United States are born deaf or hard-of-hearing. In my own family’s case, all three of my children were born with normal hearing. When my oldest child David was almost three, I suspected a decline in his hearing. I didn’t notice the hearing loss until I took him for a modeling audition and he could not follow the verbal prompts during the session. When I brought him to the pediatrician, David responded to everything during the doctor’s impromptu testing. The doctor sent me home with a “wait and see” approach, telling me that I was likely over-reacting to what appeared to be normal child development. It took six more weeks, a lot of phone calls, and stubborn insistence to finally get a hearing test at the local Children’s hospital. The results? Severe-to-profound hearing loss in both ears. My kid was now deaf.
When child number two and three came along, we had their hearing tested as infants. Both were in the normal range. Lauren was four and Steven was two when they both became sick with a high fever and congestion. After they both recovered, I sent Lauren off to preschool. When I went to pick her up, the teacher met me with a concerned look on her face. “Lauren wasn’t able to hear during class,” she said. Sure enough, a hearing test showed a mild-to-moderate hearing loss.
Now, common sense should kick in when a kid’s language becomes delayed and speech is slow to develop, right? Well, I overlooked the third kid’s development issues, chalking it up to his personality and some of his unusual habits. I called the local early intervention office and requested services. I figured a little speech therapy would fix the kid up in no time. Steven and I were playing on the floor in the living room when the speech therapist arrived. She knocked on the door. I looked up. Steven didn’t. Right then and there, she diagnosed him with a hearing loss. A hearing test at the local Children’s hospital showed the same kind of hearing loss as Lauren’s. So we added another pair of hearing aids to our collection.
Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt, it’s a coping mechanism for those times when you’re not ready to face the world with what’s going on when your kid has a developmental delay.
In the United States, most hospitals have implemented newborn hearing screening tests, with 95 percent of babies being tested before they are sent home. More and more countries around the world are setting up newborn hearing screening programs. This means hearing loss is being diagnosed far earlier than in years past, when the average age of diagnosis was at two years of age. If your baby does not pass a newborn hearing screening, follow up is crucial. Connect with a pediatric audiologist for further testing. Today, deaf and hard of hearing babies have early access to technology and language as a result of newborn hearing screening. Parent support is an important component being added to the follow up process.
What You Should Know About Your Child’s Hearing:
Babies begin to develop their sense of hearing at 18 weeks in utero. Deaf and hard of hearing babies are playing catch up from the moment they are born.
Deaf and hard of hearing babies babble just as babies with normal hearing do. This makes it easy to overlook potential hearing loss.
If your baby has not passed a newborn hearing screening, follow up immediately. The National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management has a list of helpful resources: Info for Families.
It’s important to monitor your child’s hearing throughout their life. Hearing loss can appear at any age and it can be gradual or sudden. To monitor your child’s hearing development, use Your Baby’s Hearing Checklist.
As for my own journey of raising three deaf and hard of hearing kids, I’ve learned it truly takes a village to make it all possible. I’m thankful for the audiologists, speech therapists, teachers, friends, families, and deaf and hard of hearing adults who have guided us along the way.