Permanent childhood hearing loss can be congenital, delayed-onset, progressive, or acquired in nature. Congenital hearing loss refers to hearing loss that is present at birth and is often identified through a newborn hearing screening conducted shortly after birth. While estimates vary, some hearing loss in childhood is delayed-onset or progressive in nature. As a result, it is important to provide audiologic monitoring over time for children who are considered to be "at risk" for hearing loss. In addition, some mild hearing losses as well as auditory neuropathy may not be identified through newborn hearing screening due to the current limitations of the test equipment or testing methodology used.
Hearing is critical to speech and language development, communication, literacy, and learning. Early identification and intervention of hearing loss can lessen the impact on a child's development (Sininger, Grimes, & Christensen, 2010; Yoshinaga-Itano, Baca, & Sedey, 2010). The Joint Committee on Infant Hearing (JCIH, 2007) recommends that
- all children be screened for hearing loss no later than 1 month of age,
- hearing and medical evaluations be completed no later than 3 months of age,
- infants with confirmed hearing loss are fit with amplification (if the family chooses and if appropriate) within 1 month of diagnosis,
- early intervention services begin no later than 6 months of age.
Note: The scope of this content is limited to the diagnosis and management of permanent hearing loss for children from birth through 5 years of age from an audiological perspective. Resources for hearing screening and habilitation, as well as hearing loss for school-age and adult populations, are under development.
Families who are actively involved in the assessment and treatment process achieve better outcomes (DesJardin, 2006). It is paramount that audiologists incorporate family-centered practice into the identification and treatment of young children who are deaf or hard of hearing; family-centered activities include
- engaging the family and using the child's toys from home in various aspects of the evaluation and therapy sessions,
- suspending judgment and building rapport with the family about their needs and interests,
- matching re/habilitation with the family needs and goals,
- recognizing the family's rights regarding informed consent and confidentiality.
The goal of family-centered practice is to create a partnership with the family so that the family fully participates in all aspects of the child's care.