A Guide for The Parent of Deaf Child

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As a parent, sometimes unexpected can happen after a newborn comes your way. Sometimes we have children with deafness who have parents who are also deaf. This article should help you understand your child’s hearing loss. If your child has recently been identified with a different hearing level, then this Parent Guide is for you.

Hearing Developmental Milestones of a Baby     

Other than passing hearing screening, we have a lot of other signs that a parent has to watch. This can help you in ensuring the baby’s hearing is okay. During the first year, you expect the following baby milestones:

When your baby is 3 months old

  • Reacts to loud sounds.
  • Can make soft vowel sounds like aah and eeh
  • Turns head to you when you speak.
  • They can recognize your voice and if they were crying, they calm down

When your baby is 4 to 6 months

  • Turns toward a new sound
  • They can make bubbling sounds
  • Can respond to voices or tones
  • They acknowledge music and take heed
  • Enjoys rattles and other toys that produce sounds.

When your baby is 7 to 12 months

  • Can look and turn to the source of sound
  • Can respond when you call their name with a low voice
  • Listen when you speak to them
  • Acknowledges simple requests like come, go, no, bye
  • Looks at things or pictures when someone talks about them.
  • Makes bubbling sounds, even when alone.

Babies with High Risk of Losing Hearing

A baby can be at a high risk of losing hearing as a result of the following:

  • Premature birth
  • Stayed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit – NICU
  • They experienced complications at birth
  • Had regular ear infections
  • Experienced infections like meningitis or cytomegalovirus that might have interfered their hearing

Why is Hearing Screening Important for Newborns?

Hearing Screening for Newborns
Hearing Screening for Newborns

Newborn hearing screening helps in determining whether the baby is deaf or experiences difficulties in hearing. Without hearing screening, you can hardly tell the changes in a baby’s hearing progress in the early months or years.

Sudden noises can startle babies and may turn their heads in response to the direction of the sound. This doesn’t imply they can hear every sound made around them. Even deaf babies might hear certain sounds but with no clarity of what was said.

Babies with hard of hearing or deaf require early mediations, support, and a lot of care. This can help them in boosting their health progress. If you can’t identify their hearing status early, they will lack that crucial health and growth support. This eventually can negatively impact their communication skills as they grow up.

If you missed the hearing loss of the little one, it affects both their academic ability as well a social-emotional growth.

How Do We Carry Out Hearing Screening?

Data derived from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that more than 98% of newborn babies in the USA receive newborn hearing screening.’

We have two different screening methods normally used. We have the Automated Auditory Brainstem Response (AABR) and the Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE).

Automated Auditory Brainstem Response (AABR)

This refers to a screening that involves the measurement of the response of the hearing nerve and the brain to sound. They play soft sounds or clicks via the earphones into the ears of the baby. They place three electrodes on the head of the baby. This helps in measuring the baby’s hearing nerve and its brain’s response. From this, you can determine whether the baby has difficulty hearing or not.

Otoacoustic Emission (OAE)

Optoacoustic Emission (OAE) screening measures the sound waves that come from the inner ear. To achieve this, they place a small probe inside the baby’s ear canal. This helps in measuring the response (echo) when they play tones or clicks into the ears of the baby.

The two screens mentioned above are painless. This implies you can perform them when the baby is asleep or lying on the bed. Each screening takes between 5 and 10 minutes.

What Should You Do If the Baby Missed The Hearing Screening?

1st step – Consult an Audiologist

If your baby missed passing through any of the newborn hearing screeners, they do rescreening and diagnostic testing. Diagnostic testing appears as the most accurate. A pediatrician usually refers you to the Audiologist once they detect signs of hearing impairment. They perform more follow-up testing before the age of 5 months. They give interventions before the age of 6 months for effective treatment.

2nd step – Early Childhood Hearing Interventions

If through the diagnostic test the baby seems to have lost its hearing, you require a team featuring early interventional professionals. They can help in guiding and supporting your baby. They may include:

  • Pediatric audiologist
  • Service coordinator
  • Otolaryngologist
  • Family – infant teacher
  • Family practitioner
  • Speech-language pathologist

The team can help the baby in achieving the fullest development capability possible.

Interventions

Hearing Aids

If your child develops a sensorineural hearing loss, they can suggest a hearing aid. Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common. Hearing aid features three basic parts: a receiver, a microphone, and an amplifier. You can simply customize the settings of the components to increase the sound of certain sounds. You can fit the hearing aid on the baby’s body, behind or inside the ear. The doctor can guide you on the hearing aid that can suit the child’s needs.

A hearing aid usually magnifies the sound for the deaf child to hear well. Based on the technology used in developing them, the hearing aids are quite expensive. An insurance company can help you cover some of the costs.

FM System (auditory Trainers)

This refers to a special amplification device suitable for school-going children. The system features a mic for the teacher to speak into while the receiver for the child to listen to. They transfer sound to the ears or a hearing aid. The device improves hearing while in a crowded or noisy environment.

Hearing Rehabilitation

This works to develop and improve the ability of the child to communicate. It consists of auditory therapy, listening therapy, and speech/lip reading. Seek guidance from a specialist team on suitable equipment that can improve the child’s communication.

Surgical Treatment

This involves surgically implanting a cochlear in the inner ear that helps in sending sounds direct to a hearing nerve. The treatment doesn’t heal the hearing loss. It is a perfect solution for kids with hearing loss that hearing aids can’t help.

Could My Child Be Deaf or Just Ignoring?

Your child might seem not to attend to your talk with them. Sometimes you might be forcing a communication and their response to your actions. Only two things can conclude this: either the child has a hearing impairment or just ignores you.

When this happens, you need a step further to rule out either of the two. If the baby seems responsive to other tones or sounds like music, he/she is ignoring you. If they don’t seem responsive at all to different sounds, you should seek advice from a pediatrician. This happens when they want you to repeat what you initially said or be a bit loud with your communication to them. A teacher can also easily identify this for school-going kids and advice you otherwise.

The Baby Passes the Hearing Test But Unresponsive to Sounds/Signs of Hearing Issues

In some cases, babies can pass a newborn hearing screening. Later on, like a few months or even years, they develop hearing loss. A progressive hearing loss or a late onset might occur because of lots of different factors. This can include infections like meningitis or measles, head injuries, exposing ears to loud sounds, secondhand smoke, etc.

Therefore, you need to continually observe your child even after passing a hearing test. You can look out for hearing loss signs as the baby grows and consult a pediatrician.

Consider the following:

  • Inability for the baby to startle at very loud noises at the age of 1 month or turns towards the sound at 3 -4 months
  • Doesn’t notice your presence until when they see you
  • They only concentrate on vibrating noise only
  • They don’t pay attention to you when reading something aloud
  • If they have delayed milestone in talking, experience difficulties in understanding. This is evident when they can’t say words like ma-ma or pa-pa at the age of between 12 and 15 months
  • Unresponsive when called from a different room
  • The child insists on increasing TV volume than others in the same room
  • Tend to hear some sounds and not others. (We have variations: some have a single ear affected, sometimes the hearing loss affects high pitched sounds only)
  • Sits slowly or unable to walk unsupported well. This can be sensorineural hearing loss.

Do Deaf Babies Have Different Cries?

Usually, babies communicate easily through cries. All babies always cry for specific reasons. Their cry can suggest a need for something or discomfort. Babies’ cries are always instinctive or inborn. We can simply suggest that they always don’t cry as a result of external factors. However, we have a few cases of affected brain development such as injury or prematurity. Also, the larynx or infected mouth is like the cleft palate.

In summary, deaf and normal hearing babies have the same cry, only that deaf babies can’t hear themselves.

How You Can Test Your Baby’s Hearing Ability At Home

Babies achieve milestones in different stages of their growth. Observing the different milestones is key to determining whether they achieve them or not. This includes hearing. If you detect hearing impairment in a baby earlier can help in their normal development.

In most cases, parents with babies who receive newborn hearing screening, a good percent of them don’t show up for the next appointment.

However, if you have an iOS smartphone or a tablet, you can now download the free app. This app was created by Eric Kraus, MD, otology and neurology surgeon. The app can help you comfortably screen your baby’s hearing at home.

You can download the Sleeping Baby Hearing Test App from the iTunes store for free. It has an inbuilt and self-calibrating sound level meter for measuring sound volume. This allows you to gauge how loud your voice can be when you speak the Ling 6 Sound Test with the baby lightly asleep.

By 6 Ling sounds we refer to “ah”, “oo”, “sss”, “mmm”, and “ee”. The idea is for you to say the sounds repeatedly at 60 – 70 decibels in five minutes once the baby falls asleep. It should be in a quiet room.

In this screening process, it is recommended only to use the mother’s voice rather than the father’s or any other person’s. This is because babies usually tune perfectly to their mother’s voice.

Babies aged between 2 weeks and 6 months will wake up and acknowledge their mother’s call. This is a good sign that the baby has a good hearing ability in that specific ear. If the baby continues to sleep after repeated calls, it indicates a hearing impairment.

Connecting with The Parent of Deaf Child

How Can A Deaf Parent Know When The Baby Cries?

For the past years, deaf parents have used different interventions to tell a crying baby. Sleeping with the baby in the same bed is one of them. Through this, you can easily detect movement. Some have used a trained hearing dog which alerts you when the baby starts crying. Based on the latest technology, such old interventions have limitations although they worked.

In the current generation, we have plenty of options. As a deaf parent, you can use a baby monitor, a smartphone, a flashing light, or mirrors. You can as well look at the baby, old age but a very reliable option.

Baby monitors – they come in different kinds suitable for deaf parents. They include audio, video, vibrating, and other baby monitors that can perform all the functions. The vibrating baby monitor stands out from the rest and works well for deaf parents. Also, a camera baby monitor or that which combines the functions is ideal. We as well have one that you can link with a vibrating alarm clock. It causes vibrations on the bed so that the deaf parent can wake up and attend to the crying or fussy baby.

Smartphone apps – for example, using FaceTime in observing the baby while in different rooms. You simply place an iPad to face the baby and use the iPhone.

Flashing lights – they are handy gadgets that can alert the deaf parent in case of a phone call, fire alarm, a doorbell as well as a crying baby.

Mirrors – perfectly applied when in a car ride where the deaf parent can observe the baby.

Trained hearing dogs – a trained hearing dog can also help in physically alerting the deaf parent.

Baby Cry Monitors Suitable for Deaf Parents

The most commonly used cry monitors suitable for deaf parents usually use modes like:

Light alerts, vibration alerts, extra-loud sound, and a combination of light, vibration, and sound. These four modes have over the years proved to be effective. They can perfectly alert the deaf parent to attend to the child’s call.

Baby Monitors Featuring Vibrating Alerts

They cause the parent unit to vibrate in response to the reaction of the baby. They have differences in strengths and some of the best in the market include:

Baby Monitors Featuring LED Lights Alert

Such monitors also work well for deaf parents. In order to use it, you have to tilt the parent unit so that it faces upwards. It should lie in a position you shall easily detect the LED light as they flash when the child cries.

Some of the LED lights alert baby monitors feature LED levels adjusted to suit sound levels. For example, a 1 to 10 scale, means a 10 LED level indicates a loud cry or scream from the baby. 1 or 2 indicates the baby simply wimps or cries softly.

Based on such variations, deaf parents can realize and conveniently respond to the needs of the baby.

A major con is the infective LED lights in certain situations where you can’t see the light from the parent unit or are asleep. A combination of light and vibration is therefore essential.

Baby Monitors Featuring Lights, Sound, and Vibration

The most perfect option is baby monitors deaf parents can use. They provide different options so you won’t miss a baby’s cry.

Final Notes

There is always an option for every parent to monitor their baby at night or during the day. When your little one comes into the world, we recommend you watch over every milestone as they grow. This can help you realize certain conditions and rectify them when is still early.

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