Suspected communication problems in young children can be worrisome for parents but experts emphasise the importance of early diagnosis for achieving best outcomes. We spoke to Ms. Manthi Dissanayake, Resident Audiologist and Speech Pathologist of Durdans Hospital to find out more.
In what situations should parents be concerned about hearing loss?
If child doesn’t respond when called, not following commands, responding inconsistently to sounds, unclear speech, when the child often ask for repetitions (saying “huh”) and delay in speech & language development.
How early should a child be diagnosed with hearing problems?
Early as possible. In other countries all babies go through neonatal hearing screening within few days after their birth. In our hospital it’s happening for NICU babies. Do a hearing screening /diagnostic testings before 3 months and start the rehabilitation before 6 months.
What happens if parent delays diagnosis and treatment for hearing loss?
There will be a delay in speech and language development so that the language comprehension and expression will not be age adequate. They will find it difficult to understand language concepts and so there can be academic failure and problems with social development. The child’s full progress will be hindered compared to other children.
What mind-sets prevent people from bringing their child for audiological testing even when they feel that the child is having hearing problems?
Lack of awareness is a major problem. Parents want to wait and see. Sometimes it’s difficult for them to accept that the child has hearing loss. Social stigma is also there. Leave aside hearing loss, for other conditions such as autism they are not ready to accept it and they may try to hide the child’s condition.
What are the options for children with hearing disorders?
At Durdans we can do comprehensive audiological evaluations for children. We do PTA (pure tone audiometry) tests on children and ABR (Auditory Brainstem Response). On babies and very young children who cannot follow instructions for PTA, we also do BC (Bone Conduction) ABR & Tone Burst ABR. We do Tymponometry, Middle Ear Testing and OAE test. This is a complete test battery to test the degree and the type of hearing loss. We also provide speech therapy (Auditory Verbal Therapy) for children with hearing difficulties.
How can timely diagnosis help learning and development in children
Early identification and rehabilitation will help the child to hear from an early age so that the child’s speech, language, social & academic skills will develop as same as the others.
Who is a speech pathologist?
Someone who identifies and treats speech, language and swallowing disorders in children and adults.
In what circumstances would children be made to visit one?
When there is a delay in speech and language, when there is a difficulty in producing speech sounds, poor development of play skills and if parents observe behaviour such as lining of toys, looking at rotating objects, flapping arms, toe walking, stammering and inadequate voice quality. Adults with speech and language difficulty post stroke, difficulty in performing voluntary movements with mouth and patients with swallowing difficulties also would benefit from one.
Are hearing loss and speech disorders in children on the rise and Why?
Hearing loss is one of the most common birth defects compared to other birth defects. Speech disorders, especially numbers of autism cases, are increasing. Lot of late-talkers are apparent: those with delayed speech but no associated condition, mostly because most of the children spent time alone with electronic gadgets such as phones ,tabs etc, without actual communication with parents and family.