Hearing management

17 December 2008

Hearing impairment identified too late

The average age at which children with a hearing loss are identified is two years and four months. In some cases it can be as late as six years. This week is Deaf Awareness Week.

A hearing loss is an invisible problem that can go unnoticed for years. It is therefore imperative that children should undergo hearing screening tests before the age of at least nine months.

The sooner a hearing deficiency is diagnosed, the better. Nowadays even a newborn baby’s hearing can be tested directly after birth. In the United States it is now compulsory to screen a newborn baby’s hearing. The hearing screening test results appear on the birth certificate.

Unfortunately the average age at which children with a hearing loss are identified is two years and four months. In some cases it can be as late as six years. This is too late and it weakens the prospects for adequate communication in the hearing world. This is because the first three years of a child’s life are the most important time for a child to acquire speech and language and thus learn to communicate with others.

How can one identify hearing loss?
Although children may exhibit symptoms of hearing loss, the only way that it can be determined for sure is through adequate testing. No whisper tests or home-made tests can do this. Testing must be performed by a qualified person such as an audiologist, using a properly functioning audiometer.

Hearing tests are performed to determine whether a person has a hearing loss, how severe the loss is, in which part of the ear the damage is, and what aid s/he can receive.

A person’s hearing loss is graphed on an audiogram.

(Liesel van Niekerk, author of the Listening and Language Home Programme, updated December 2008)


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Hearing Expert

Francis Slabber is a Speech & Language Therapist and Audiologist who has owned and run The Hearing Clinic in Wynberg, Cape Town for the last 17 years. Francis and her team have extensive experience in fitting and supplying hearing aids as well as assistive living devices. Francis has served as the Western Cape Chairperson for the South African Association of Audiologists for three years and has given many talks on the topic of hearing loss and amplification. The Hearing Clinic has a special interest in adult and geriatric hearing impairment, hearing aid fittings and hearing rehabilitation.

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