If you suspect that your young child has a hearing loss, it is often quite challenging to be sure whether it is most appropriate for him or her to see an ENT doctor, their pediatrician, or an audiologist when you think that a hearing loss may be present. Although each of those health care providers certainly plays a crucial role in the treatment of hearing problems, it is best to know when you should seek care and in what order each specialist should be seen. Therefore, it is a good idea to be aware of the following information to help you to make the most appropriate choices for your child's future.
Planning For Your Visit With The Pediatrician
A pediatrician is often the first health care professional with whom you might speak about your concerns and observations regarding your child's possible hearing loss. However, you should not expect a battery of sophisticated tests at your visit. He or she is likely to do a physical exam, watch for reactions that your child should have to surprising sounds nearby and review their medical history. Babies who were born prematurely, have blood relatives with a hearing loss and who consumed certain medications are at a higher risk of developing hearing problems. The Center for Disease Control has reported that about 1.4 out of every 1,000 babies born have some degree of hearing loss.
Your pediatrician will usually be able to refer you to an ENT doctor, which is short for an ears, nose, and throat doctor. It is important to note that some, but not all insurance companies require referrals. Therefore, you might be able to avoid this visit with your pediatrician if you so desire and just go directly to the ENT without seeing your pediatrician if your insurance company permits you to do so.
What To Expect When You See The ENT Doctor
When you have arranged for an appointment with an ENT doctor, you should expect a series of hearing tests for your young child. They can be time-consuming, but are not painful and provide crucial information as to the extent of the damage. One example is the Auditory Brainstem Response, or ABR, for which newborns need to be asleep and older babies may need to be sedated in order to assess their non-verbal response to specific hearing stimulus.
Another common test that newborns often get in the hospital and that is similarly beneficial to older babies and toddlers is an Otoacoustic Emissions, or OAEs, exam. It uses a small probe that is inserted into the child's ear canal that measures the sounds that are detected by the inner ear after it has been stimulated. When the degree and type of hearing loss has been determined, the ENT will also need to medically clear your child for hearing aids if necessary and refer you to an audiologist for their creation and use. Surgical interventions may also be needed if an underlying, treatable cause for the hearing deficit can be found.
Benefiting From The Appointment With The Audiologist
At your first visit with the audiologist, you can expect for the subject of hearing aids to be discussed. Although there are numerous types of hearing aids on the market now, young children often receive an over-the-ear choice. It goes over the back of the ear, with part of it going within the ear. It is easy to clean, easy to adjust, and as your baby grows, can be refitted with new molds to extend the usability of the actual hearing aid.
Babies as young as four weeks can benefit from hearing aids and their continued use during a child's first few years of life can help them to meet normal developmental goals throughout their lifetime, including speech, academic skills and appropriate socialization.
In conclusion, many children are born with or develop a hearing loss as babies and toddlers. If you have reason to believe that your baby or toddler does not hear as well as he or she should, it will behoove you to learn the facts shared above as you plan for the prompt medical care that your child deserves.