Hearing loss in children – our experience and what to look out for
My daughter Kitty is an inquisitive child, she love finding out facts about things, animals, nature, people, places, scribbling things down in her notebooks to refer back to in the future. Long term readers will remember I have written in the past about her shyness around non-family members, well I am pleased to report that that’s improving as she’s getting older. Recently on holiday in Somerset she took herself off to chat to the couple staying in the next yurt to us, something that would never have happened a few years ago.
A few months ago her second lot of grommets fell out, as they do, naturally, around a year after they were inserted. I’ve overjoyed to report that her hearing is now fine and she won’t need an operation for a third set to be fitted.
The contrast between the nearly stone deaf Kitty 4 years ago and the Kitty now is stark. Her speech, reading, confidence and happiness have all come on in leaps and bounds and there is literally no stopping her and I have every confidence that my daughter will do great things with her life.
Her hearing problems were caused by bad glue ear in both ears. After numerous ear infections our doctor arranged a hearing test which showed there was a problem and we were referred tour private medical care provider. Hearing tests are gentle and interactive often based around playing games. When they tested her ears the specialist told us that for Kitty everyday life was 80% quieter than it should be and would be sounding muffled, like she was under water. All thought we knew she had a hearing problem we had no idea the severity of the situation until that moment, it was really upsetting to hear that she was suffering so much, both from missing out on sounds and from the pain of the ear infections that accompany glue ear.
We were lucky in that we had private medical cover and the whole thing was dealt with in a matter of weeks. But many aren’t in that position and children can face waiting lists in some areas of up to 18 months for grommet surgery – that’s a long time for a child to have hearing loss. They could be struggling at school, with their confidence and building relationships with other children. But there is help for those children.
If you have a child suffering from hearing loss, it might not be obvious, here are some things to look out for:
• Asking for the TV to be turned up excessively
• Watching your lips as you talk
• Do you shout to your child from another room in the house and they don’t respond?
• Delayed speech
• Complains of each aches often
• Falling behind peers at school
• Answering questions inappropriately – for example I would ask Kitty ‘what do you want for breakfast?’ and she would reply ‘Yes please’
If you have any suspicions make an appointment with your GP to explain your concerns and ask for a hearing test. If you child does have a problem with hearing detected at the test, glue ear as Kitty did for example, don’t be disheartened by NHS waiting times as you can ask to be referred to somewhere like Scrivens, who offer free NHS hearing aids to children (when referred by a GP). Having a hearing aid fitted is a quick and painless affair, about the same time as it does to do a grocery shop, around 30-60 minutes. Making it convenient and free to help your child’s hearing improve – even if only for the time it takes to have grommet surgery.
Dealing with hearing loss as a parent can be upsetting but there is help available, I’ve added a handy list of relevant resources below.