Hearing Loss

Newborn Infant Hearing Screening

The Commonwealth of Virginia mandates every infant receive a hearing screening within one month of birth, preferably prior to discharge from the hospital. When a child fails this screening, he/she is referred to a site that has been approved by the state as having the personnel and equipment necessary to perform the recommended additional testing and provide follow-up and the ongoing medical and hearing care that these children may require. Virginia ENT is such an approved site.  Our team of physicians and audiologists are committed to the same goals the state had in establishing this program:

  • Early diagnosis and full assessment of any hearing difficulties in children
  • Immediate care for infants with hearing losses correctable by medical treatment
  • Prompt management and early use of hearing aids, if needed, in order to prevent avoidable speech and language delays in any child with a permanent hearing loss
  • Care-filled and comprehensive counseling for families of children with hearing loss including the provision of needed resources
  • Cooperative participation with other agencies providing early intervention services to children with hearing loss

Speech/Language Development

More than three million American children suffer from hearing loss. An estimated 1.3 million are under the age of three. Good hearing is essential for good language development. If a child is not meeting his/her developmental milestones for speech and language, careful diagnosis and timely hearing intervention are critical to ensure that the child has an opportunity for normal speech.

Parents and grandparents are usually the first to discover hearing loss in babies because they spend the most time with them. Signs your child may have a hearing loss include:

  • Not awakening, startling, moving, crying or reacting in any way to loud noises,
  • Not turning his/her head in the direction of your voice, or
  • Not freely imitating sound

If you suspect your baby has a hearing loss, discuss it with your doctor. He or she may recommend evaluation by an ear, nose and throat doctor (an Otolaryngologist) such as those with Virginia Ear, Nose & Throat Associates.

Temporary Hearing Loss – Hearing loss can be temporary, caused by earwax or middle ear infections. Children with temporary hearing loss can have their hearing restored through medical treatment or minor surgery.

Permanent Hearing Loss – Unfortunately, some children have sensorineural hearing loss (sometimes called nerve deafness), which is permanent. Most of these children have some usable hearing, and children as young as three months of age can be fitted with hearing aids. Early diagnosis, early fitting of hearing or other prosthetic aids, and an early start on special education programs can help maximize a child’s existing hearing. This means your child will get a head start on speech and language development.

Sudden Hearing Loss –  Sudden hearing loss is an urgent concern which requires physician and audiologic evaluation and sometimes medical management.

Noise Induced Hearing Loss – When a child or adult is exposed to harmful sounds (e.g., sounds that are too loud for too long a time) sensitive structures of the inner ear can be damaged causing noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). NIHL is a hearing disorder characterized by a gradual, progressive loss of high frequency hearing sensitivity over time as a result of exposure to excessive noise levels. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD):

  • 10 million Americans have already suffered irreversible hearing damage from noise
  • 30 to 50 million more are exposed to dangerous noise levels each day.

Noise induced hearing loss is almost always preventable and it is never too early to start protecting your children’s hearing. Click here to learn more about NIHL.

Evaluation and Diagnosis

Proper workup of all hearing loss is important to identify potentially treatable causes and attempt to restore lost hearing function. Clinical History, Audiograms, Otoacoustic Emissions, Tympanometry, Auditory Brainstem Responses, and Radiographic Imaging are some of the tools utilized to diagnose potential causes of hearing loss. If a CT scan is indicated, in many cases this can be done in our offices on the MiniCAT scanners.  These scanners are upright and emit much lower doses of radiation while producing superior quality images making them very child-friendly.  Virginia ENT’ physicians and audiologists will work with you to meet your hearing needs.