Hearing loss, even if minor, greatly influences the development of speech and communication in childhood. To help alleviate future problems, newborn babies are almost uniformly screened and tested for their hearing capabilities. As an infant grows, further hearing tests are administered, anywhere here in the BC area. These BC hearing tests are important since early detection of any hearing loss information is critical for treatment. For example, early detection can lead to the proper use of cochlear implants, thereby curbing any speech delays or communication problems at a later age.
Hearing loss affects a small proportion of newborn babies, with both genetics and environmental factors contributing to loss. Many children with hearing loss may also have parents who suffer from loss. After birth, if the initial screening raises questions about an infant’s hearing, then a more thorough set of tests is administered. This includes a test before 3 months of age to determine if there’s permanent loss. For older infants, behavioral tests that measure responsiveness are appropriate.
For people with hearing loss, an alternative to hearing aids for children, cochlear implants imitate the sounds in their environment. Under FDA regulations, these implants cannot be used in young children until they are 12 months of age. The implant does not replicate sound. Instead, a microphone in the ear captures the external sound which is then converted to a digital file. This file is then sent to a magnetic transmitter which sends electrical signals to an internal receiver. The receiver moves the signal to an electrical array which stimulates the cochlea and, subsequently, other regions of the auditory nerve.
More than half of current implant patients are children (see hearing loss in children). Research indicates that the implant can assist children in overcoming developmental delays caused through hearing loss. However, the key is early intervention. Proper testing and follow-up can best identify those young children who can best benefit from an implant and, consequently, have fewer hurdles adapting to their hearing loss.