What is an Audiologist and how do they help babies and children?
Audiologist's work with people who have hearing, balance, and related ear problems. They examine individuals of all ages and identify those with the symptoms of hearing loss and other auditory, balance, and related sensory and neural problems.
All babies should have their hearing screened after birth, in other countries like America, it is compulsory to test your baby's hearing before leaving the hospital.
They then assess the nature and extent of the problems and help the individuals manage them. Using audiometers, computers, and other testing devices, they measure the loudness at which a person begins to hear sounds, the ability to distinguish between sounds, and the impact of hearing loss on an individual's daily life. In addition, audiologists use computer equipment to evaluate and diagnose balance disorders. Audiologists interpret these results and may coordinate them with medical, educational, and psychological information to make a diagnosis and determine a course of treatment.
Sometimes, children have trouble hearing. Often, these problems are found while they are still babies. If parents and doctors notice a hearing problem in a baby or toddler, they can start taking steps early to help him or her hear well. If an older child develops hearing trouble, he or she can get help, too.
One of the best people to see for a hearing problem is an audiologist (say: oh-dee-ah-luh-jist). An audiologist is a specialist who's been trained to understand how hearing works and how to help children who don't hear normally.
A child who's having trouble hearing could have a problem as simple as too much wax in the ears. This can be removed by a doctor and help the child hear normally again.
But hearing problems also can be more complicated — a little like solving a mystery. Why? Because the ear has several different parts, it's mostly hidden inside your head, and it connects to your brain. To make hearing happen, your ears need your brain and your brain needs your ears.
An audiologist can help figure out what the problem is with a child's hearing. He or she might send a report to the child's doctor, so they can work together on solving the problem. Children with hearing problems may visit an audiologist regularly to see how the treatments are working and to make sure their hearing hasn't changed.
Why are early identification and early intervention for hearing loss so important?
Hearing is critical for the development of speech, language, communication skills, and learning. The earlier that hearing loss occurs in a child's life, the more serious is the effect on the child's development. Similarly, the earlier the hearing loss is identified and intervention begun, the more likely it is that the delays in speech and language development will be diminished. Recent research indicates that children identified with hearing loss that begin services before 6 months old develop language (spoken or signed) on a par with their hearing peers.
Hearing Loss and Hearing Aids
A child's hearing tests might show that he or she has some hearing loss. The problem might affect one ear or both. The good news is that there are many treatments for children who have hearing loss.
Hearing aids are common. These are tiny devices that have microphones and make sounds louder so that someone with hearing loss can hear them. Sometimes, surgery can fix some or the entire hearing problem. If surgery only improves some hearing, wearing a hearing aid can help the person hear even better.
Children who have hearing problems also can get other help. They might go to special schools, where all the children have hearing problems. Or they might go to a regular school and get a little extra help when needed. Outside or inside school, the child might get speech therapy to help with talking and understanding others.
If you have a child with hearing problems, many people want to help you hear as well as you can — and be as independent as possible. Who's on this team? You, your family, your friends, your teachers, your doctors, your therapists, and especially your audiologist!
The information in this article was kindly supplied by Nicole Da Rocha, Communication Pathologist and Audiologist.
For additional information kindly contact the South African Speech Language Hearing Association:
Tel: 086 111 3297