Deafness to some degree is a common problem affecting more than 10 million people in the UK. Of these, over 45,000 are children and about half of all deaf children are born deaf.
Temporary deafness, due to Eustachian tube blockage, middle ear infections, or glue ear is also very common. Most sensorineural hearing loss in children is present from birth or acquired perinatally, however this may also occur later in age.
There are many reasons children lose the ability to hear and it helps to know the potential causes and risks, especially if you have a family history of hearing difficulties or are concerned about particular child. Around 20-30% of deaf children have no definite known cause but the majority can be associated with one or more of the following examples:
- Glue ear and recurrent ear infections (a classic cause of temporary deafness),
- History of deafness or hearing loss in the family,
- Exposure to loud noises,
- Premature or difficult labour and birth Congenital infections like rubella or meningitis Ototoxic (ear-damaging),
- Medications in pregnancy or postnatally Low birth weight,
- Low Apgar scores or prolonged mechanical ventilation
- Head injuries
Hearing loss can vary from mild, moderate, severe to profound deafness and can be managed accordingly with a variety of methods. In children it can affect the development of communication and language, so a good support network is often beneficial.
Development areas to encourage
A children with hearing loss can feel isolated as they and you both adapt your lives to a world without or with little sound.
Depending on the extent of hearing loss, maximise the use of what they do have, cutting out background noise, and using supportive equipment such hearing aids, radio aids and cochlear implants. These can all help children develop their listening skills and spoken language at the same time whilst maximising any hearing a deaf child may have.
Encourage lip reading and sign language for both you and your child.
Manage feelings and PSE (personal, social and emotional) developments.
Activities that they can engage with
A deaf child often lacks in speech, language and cognitive skills. A way to encourage this is by playing games that use simple words and repetition. Use everyday tasks that promote speech, For example, using the telephone or shopping.
Problem solving games can teach them skills they will find valuable later on.
Role play can help direct and manage personal emotions and feelings which may be heightened.
Use relevant toys and books to help your child understand the world they are living in.
Encourage friendships, team games and group work. Lip reading and sign language between friends will promote fluency and communication whilst tackling any feelings of isolation.