When people hear the words “early detection” they think it means screening at a young age, but hearing loss is a condition that can strike at any age. It is about detecting the problem at the earliest possible time. The sooner you can detect hearing loss, the better the outcome for the person with the impairment. Hearing loss can occur at any age and hearing screening plays a vital role to ensure that patients can avoid communication roadblocks and potentially have a better quality of life. Early detection means addressing hearing loss before it significantly impacts a person’s quality of life. Identifying hearing loss at a very early age is important because children with hearing loss often fall behind their peers in speech and language development, cognitive skills and social skills. If the hearing loss is not treated, these deficits can lead to complex issues such as reduced socio-economic status, poor socialization skills, depression, etc. The earlier we can identify hearing loss the sooner we can begin to treat the problem and have better outcomes for the individual in particular. Early childhood screening is also common as not all hearing loss can be identified at birth. Screening during early childhood or beyond the newborn period is critical because hearing loss is an invisible condition. Between birth and age five, the incidence of hearing loss doubles. Just because a newborn passed their hearing screening at birth, it is not a guarantee that a late-onset and/or progressive hearing loss will not develop.
Approximately 3 out of every 1000 children in the United States are born deaf or hard of hearing. More than 90 per cent are born to parents with typical hearing. Fortunately, early identification allows children with hearing loss to receive the help they need during the first two years of their life. This is a critical period for the development of speech and language skills. The earlier a child’s hearing loss is detected, the sooner the family can gather as much information as possible to make the best decision for their child’s language and communication approach. Late detection or undue ignorance can lead to problems like speech developmental delay. With early intervention, children with hearing loss can develop language skills to help them communicate freely and actively learn.
However, if the child’s hearing loss is left undetected or untreated, hearing loss can negatively impact a child’s language development. Delayed intervention can also adversely impact a child’s language development. One study had found that children who received earlier amplification or cochlear implantation had better language outcomes. Maternal education and communication modes used during the early intervention can also improve language skills over time. A longitudinal study concluded that children with permanent hearing loss enrolled in an early intervention program before the 6 months of age developed on par with age-appropriate language skills than those who were enrolled after 6 months of age.
Even if your child or a child of a loved one does not have hearing loss today, it is strongly recommended to get regular checkups and annual hearing tests performed by audiologists, ENTs, paediatricians, or other health providers to monitor potential changes in hearing.