Signs of Hearing Loss in Babies and Important Milestones Parents Should Know
Even after passing the hearing screening, some babies may still develop hearing impairment gradually.
It is a common process for babies to have to go through a Newborn Hearing Screening before they can be discharged from the hospital. Usually performed within the first few days after birth, this will help diagnose any hearing problems in the baby.
According to the Singapore General Hospital, about 1 in 1000 babies in Singapore develops significant hearing impairment at birth. This leaves them at risk for delays in speech, language, intellectual, social, and emotional development.
Moreover, even after passing the hearing screening, some babies may still develop hearing impairment gradually. This could be due to recurrent ear infections, genetic factors, or chronic illnesses.
As such, parents are advised to stay vigilant. To help minimise any damaging impact on the child’s development, early detection followed by appropriate intervention is crucial.
Signs of Hearing Loss in Infants
In an interview with ‘Living Well’ on Shin Min daily, Associate Professor Liu Wangjian, a senior consultant doctor at the otolaryngology surgery at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital highlights a few signs that parents can observe about their baby to find out if he or she has a hearing impairment:
- The baby has no appropriate responses to the sound of your voice.
- The baby does not get startled by loud noises such as thunder or door slammed shut.
- The baby has a lack of babbling or cooing.
In addition, Dr Liu further explained that there are certain milestones when it comes to babies’ hearing and language developmental stages.
He advises parents to pay extra attention if there is a delay in milestones relating to baby’s hearing, speech and language development. These are the general indicators, according to him:
- By three months: When talking to the baby, the baby will turn his head in the direction of where the sound comes from
- By six months: The baby will like toys that produce sounds. Upon hearing them, he or she will respond by babbling and repeating the sounds
- Between 6 months to 12 months: The baby should be babbling and saying their first words
- Between 15 months to 18 months: The toddler should start speaking simple sentences and understand simple instructions
Parents can continue to monitor the behavioural responses of their child’s hearing ability according to the checklist provided in the Baby Health Booklet.
In the event a baby has an ear infection that may affect hearing, Dr Liu explains that babies may have the following symptoms:
- A persistent fever
- The tendency to pull on one or both ears
- Appears to be constantly tired
- A lack of energy
In any instance you suspect that your child has a hearing problem, do consult your doctor.
When and How Will The Screening Be Done?
The hearing screening typically takes about 15 to 30 minutes and will be performed by trained staff. It is safe and will not pose any dangers to your child.
According to Mount Elizabeth Hospitals, the doctor is likely to perform a range of tests to assess your child’s hearing ability. These could include the following:
- Physical ear exam — allows for the checking of inflammation caused by an infection or excess wax
- Clinical screen tests — allows for the checking for responses to voices at various intensities
- The use of tuning forks to assess a child’s responses to sounds
- Detailed audiometric tests with earphones
Young children who face difficulties in understanding and following instructions may be required to undergo objective hearing tests under sedation.
Parents should also ensure that their child receives all necessary vaccinations and undergo regular checkups with their doctor. This could help prevent illness and infection that could lead to hearing loss.
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