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Previously on ENT Weekly, we looked at congenital hearing loss and the ways that it is inherited. For immediate family, the diagnosis of congenital hearing loss leads to the immediate reaction of disbelief and denial. With advances in medicine and technology, however, the chances of acceptance are greater when looking at appropriate intervention methods.

For children as young as four weeks old, hearing aids are beneficial as they amplify sound such that it is possible for sound to be heard and thus be able to develop language. The primary limitation is for those with severe to profound hearing loss, in which despite amplification of sound, sound may still not be loud enough for transmission to the brain. For the most part, a behind-the-ear hearing aid is recommended for young children because it is safer and easily adjusted as the child grows, compared to one that fits within the ear.

Children can use hearing aids.

Image Source: Chris Jackson

A child also can learn to communicate using a form of sign language, and in the United States, this is American Sign Language (ASL). ASL has rules and grammar that are distinct from English, with several variations among English-speaking countries. In addition to ASL, there is also a version of spoken language called cued speech. Coupled with lip reading, cued speech uses eight hand shapes in four positions and usually takes less than 20 hours to learn the entire system.

For those with severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss, surgery may be a viable option. For example, for children as young as 12 months, a device called a cochlear implant can be surgically inserted into the inner ear to stimulate hearing. With additional language and speech therapy, children with cochlear implants learn to understand speech and speak to varying degrees.

All of these options need to be heavily analyzed before coming to an end solution that optimizes the patient’s situation. With that in mind, early detection is key to having the best outcome, so consult with a pediatrician or otolaryngologist for any concerns.

Feature Image Source: Justin Chin

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