Time to check your children’s hearing

Parents, friends and family often ask me about hearing and how often they should be getting their ears tested and their child’s ears tested. Hearing allows us to connect to our world. Communication is founded in hearing, especially since we live in a primarily auditory world.

The picture of my niece and nephews playing (above) shows how important hearing is. We get all of our other essential senses, such as vision, tested every year or two because we need our eyes to see. In the same way, we should be getting our ears tested every year or two as well, because we need our ears to hear.

As an audiologist and a new mom, I think about this a lot. My husband and I are always thinking about what’s best for our daughter and how to ensure that she is and remains healthy, as I’m sure many other parents do. We spend so much time and energy thinking about what to feed her – not too many sweets, not too much salt, good fats, balanced meals with veggies and protein. We also spend a lot of time focusing on her sleep – make sure she naps in her crib everyday and that bedtime is set for a reasonable time. We attend all of her doctor’s appointments together. Make sure she receives all of the immunizations she should be getting. And of course, we make sure that life for her remains a paradise of fun, by taking her out to the park, to the splashpad, to wonderland, swimming, making bubbles, going to classes, interacting with other kids, etc… Since it’s so important to give her the best and happiest quality of life that we can and keep her healthy, whenever she rubs her ears (usually because she’s tired), I think ‘Oh, oh, does she have an ear infection? Should I take her to the clinic to get her ears checked?’. I find myself always thinking about this, because even though she has normal hearing, as an audiologist, I know that anything can happen at anytime, and the best intervention to me, is the preventative one.

According to the world health organization, over 5% of the world’s population (i.e., 360 million people) suffers from a hearing loss. Children make up almost 10% (i.e., 32 million) of that statistic, worldwide. In Canada, more than 2,000 babies are born with a hearing loss each year – this means that approximately 6 out of every 1,000 newborn babies will have some degree of hearing loss. The prevalence of hearing loss increases with age as progressive and acquired hearing losses develop during childhood and adolescence (Mehra, Eavey et al. 2009; Shargorodsky, Curhan et al. 2010).

Hearing loss in children can have a congenital cause, which means that babies are born with the loss or acquire it during birth or soon after birth; or it can also have an acquired cause, which means that it can develop at any time and at any age. Causes for hearing loss vary and can include genetic factors, non-genetic factors, infections, bacteria, virus, trauma, pharmacologically-induced ototoxicity, noise, etc… These many factors that can affect hearing means that our children are quite vulnerable, all the time! It’s important to protect them in the best way that we can, and as far as hearing goes, in my opinion, that starts with an annual hearing test. We get our eyes tested, our teeth cleaned and an annual physical done; so we should be testing ours and our children’s ears too for the same reasons, don’t you think?

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