Why is it important to have your child's hearing assessed?

Right from birth, children develop language through the auditory examples they are exposed to in everyday life. Without regular exposure to different sounds of speech, we frequently notice that a child shows a delay in language development. As a parent, it can be very difficult to realize your child can't hear correctly certain speech sounds, a mild hearing problem will often go unnoticed.

Families now have the chance to access hearing screening at birth in the majority of hospitals in the province of Quebec. This hearing screening is very useful to eliminate the presence of significant hearing loss from birth. Unfortunately, this screening does not eliminate some types of hearing loss (for example, a mild loss) nor does it protect the child from possible hearing loss in the future.

It should be noted that despite a successful neonatal hearing screening, the presence of permanent mild hearing loss is possible. Often undiagnosed, it can affect school learning and language development. This will give the impression that the child is inattentive or that his abilities are less than expected.

In addition, children are often prone to developing otitis. The main reason for the abundance of this kind of problems before school age is quite simple. The channel that ventilates the ear, the Eustachian tube, is immature. This tube does not have yet the same physiology as the adult one. The Eustachian tube is horizontal and narrower, which does not provide effective and sufficient ventilation. As a result, natural secretions accumulate in the middle ear cavity and otitis develops. These problems can also occur in older children or adults, but they are less common.

When the child has acute otitis media (AOM), there is an infection of the fluid present in the middle ear. In this case, an antibiotic drug will be prescribed to the child. The fluid is infected by throat germs that have arrived through the Eustachian tube. When the child has serous otitis, there is presence of uninfected fluid behind the eardrum, therefore in the middle ear. The child does not have fever since there is no infection. Therefore, no antibiotics are needed. Often called silent ear infection, because there is few or no symptoms are apparent.

Did you know that an otitis can cause hearing loss, although this is usually temporary. The degree of hearing loss caused by an ear infection will vary from minimal to moderate. If the fluid persists, the temporary deafness can last for several months while fluctuating depending on the condition of the middle ear. The child will grasp some words, but others will not be understood. In addition, remember that daycare and school are noisy environments and that speech is more difficult to

understand for a person with hearing loss. It is obvious that learning child must have access to all words and sounds in order to progress. As they get older, the child may complain of clogged ear sensation due to the presence of liquid, but the youngest are not yet able to verbalize this complaint. A chronic ear infection problem can induce a language delay and/or learning difficulties since access to vocabulary and sounds is restricted.

Take the test: wear noise protection earplugs and try to understand your interlocutors... Difficult, isn't it? This is what many children experience with ear infection, for example!

For all these reasons, it is recommended to consult an audiologist for a complete hearing evaluation as soon as we notice language difficulties, when there is an absence of reaction to certain noises or as soon as you have doubts about your child's hearing. It is imperative to have your child's hearing assessed before entering school or before starting a speech therapy assessment to ensure that the child is in the best conditions to progress. Just like seeing an optometrist or dentist, put a visit to the audiologist on your list of professionals to consult for the health of your little ones.


Text written by Sophie Lamontagne and Marie-Ève Lessard, audiologists.