Family Resources for Children with Hearing Loss
As the parent of a child with newly diagnosed hearing loss, you will have many questions and concerns regarding the nature of this problem, its effects on your child’s future, treatment options, and resources. This brief overview will give you necessary initial information and provide guidance about the availability of resources, and the respective roles of different care providers.
It is always difficult for parents to receive bad news about any aspect of their child’s health. Reacting with anger, grief, and even guilt are not unusual when finding out that your child has a hearing deficit. These feelings are best managed by discussing them with a family member, close friend, clergy, or mental health professional. At times, the feeling may also result in a degree of denial. Feel free to seek a second opinion, but it is unadvisable to delay further recommended diagnostic evaluations for your child. The best treatment for hearing loss of any degree is appropriate early intervention. Significant delays may result in irreversible harm to your child’s hearing, speech, language, and eventual educational development.
You will come into contact with many healthcare and rehabilitation specialists during the long-term management of your child’s hearing loss. Some of them will be involved early in the journey and again at intervals. Others may step in later on. The following are professionals you will encounter and the role each of them will play in managing your child’s hearing loss.
Primary Care Physician: Pediatrician or Family Practitioner
Your child’s primary care physician may be either a pediatrician or a family practice doctor. If your child develops concerns for hearing loss, it is the responsibility of this doctor to make appropriate referrals to an ear, nose and throat specialist and an audiologist to rule out or diagnose hearing loss. Your child’s primary care doctor may also participate in the treatment of ear infections if they appear, or refer them to an otolaryngologist for treatment. The primary care physician or the otolaryngologist may also provide a referral to a doctor who specializes in medical genetics, to find out if your child’s hearing loss may be hereditary. That may help you determine if a similar hearing loss could occur in your other children.
The audiologist is likely to be the first professional you encounter in evaluating your child's hearing, and possibly the one who gives you the initial news regarding your child’s hearing loss. The audiologist will carry out behavioral or objective testing (such as auditory brainstem response testing) or a combination of these approaches to determine the degree and type of hearing loss. The audiologist wil recommend appropriate amplification, following a medical consultation, and will provide and fit the amplication best suited to your child's hearing needs. The audiologist may also be the professional who provides you with a referral to an early intervention program. Over time, the audiologist will provide periodic follow-ups to chart your child’s progress and to monitor his or her hearing.
Otologist, Otolaryngologist, or Pediatric Otolaryngologist (ENT Physician)
Upon diagnosis of hearing loss, your child will be referred to an ear, nose, and throat specialist (otolaryngologist), or one who specializes in childhood ear and hearing problems. This physician’s initial role is to determine the specific nature of the underlying problem that may be at least partially causing the hearing loss. Additionally, the physician will also determine if the problem is medically or surgically treatable, and if so, provide the necessary medical or surgical treatment. Such treatments could include something relatively simple, like the placement of ventilation tubes in the eardrums, or more complex surgical procedures. The ENT specialist may also refer your child for additional diagnostic procedures such as imaging studies (X-ray, CT-scan, MRI) to further define the type and source of hearing loss. The ENT will also provide medical clearance for hearing aid fitting, after determining if no other intervention is indicated. If it is determined that your child needs a cochlear implant, the otolaryngologist, along with the audiologist, will carry out further tests and examinations, and will carry out the implant surgery.
Early Intervention Specialist
This professional typically is someone with an education background. He or she can help you find resources in your community, define family members’ roles in early intervention and management of the hearing loss, and can help you establish a plan regarding future educational placement. This specialist will also help you address your observations and concerns about your child and give you information and support regarding your child’s educational needs in the future.
Speech/ Language Pathologist (SLP)
This professional will evaluate the impact of your child’s hearing loss on speech/language development and monitor his/her progress. The SLP may refer back to the audiologist or otolaryngologist to determine if any changes have occurred in your child’s hearing. The SLP will also help your child to learn proper speech production, including correct articulation of speech sounds. If you choose oral communication for your child, your child may also be treated by an auditory-verbal therapist, who can help your child acquire the full range of speech sounds and guide the family to additional medical or audiological treatments. The auditory-verbal therapist will also help the child’s family become familiar with appropriate speech/language, auditory, and cognitive developmental milestones you may expect for your child.
Finally, many other people can provide additional assistance for your family. Parents of older hard-of-hearing children, and hard-of-hearing adults, can share their experiences with you and may have suggestions for educational and recreational resources in the community. Below are some links to more information regarding hearing loss and your child as well as parent and family resources:
AG Bell, for information and resources regarding hearing loss for families and professionals:
Boys Town Hospital, information for newly diagnosed infants with hearing loss:
Hand and Voices, a national organization providing a community for children with hearing loss and their families:
For online hearing loss activities and listening games, the following site may be beneficial. Resources are provided for hearing loss patients of all ages (birth-adulthood):
For more information on Hearing Loss, call Children's Ears Nose Throat and Allergy in Orlando, FL at (407) 253-1000!