In 2013, 87.3% of babies with diagnosed hearing loss were referred to The Program for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities (Part C of IDEA). Part C of IDEA is a federal grant program that assists states in operating a comprehensive statewide program of early intervention services for infants and toddlers (birth through 2 years old) with disabilities and their families. 92.3% of that 87.3% were eligible for Part C services.
With early intervention, children with hearing loss are able to develop language skills to help them communicate freely and actively learn. There are many services available to support children. For example, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) ensures all children with disabilities have access to services they need for a good education. In addition, Head Start and Early Head Start are federally funded programs to help young children of low-income families become better equipped to succeed in school.
If a child uses more than one of these options listed below, he or she has a better chance of understanding what others are saying and of being understood.
Hearing devices. One of the most common tools is the hearing aid, a device worn in or behind the ear that helps amplify sounds. Hearing aids have improved over the years and can be used for different degrees of hearing loss, from mild to severe, and in babies as young as 1 month old. An audiologist can choose the best hearing aid for a child and make sure it is secure and properly fitted.
If a child has a profound hearing loss and won’t benefit from a hearing aid, a doctor may suggest a cochlear implant. Cochlear implants can be fitted in children from age 1. A cochlear implant is an electronic device that converts sounds into electrical signals and carries them past the nonworking part of the inner ear to the brain. With training, children with cochlear implants can learn to recognize sounds and understand speech. Talk with an ENT who specializes in cochlear implants to determine if it is the right kind of intervention for your child.
Language and communication. Children who are deaf or hard of hearing learn to communicate in a number of ways.
Some families may choose to communicate using American Sign Language, while others choose approaches that build upon the English language when communicating.
Cued Speech combines the natural lip movements of speech with hand shapes representing phonetic sounds, providing additional visual cues so sounds such as “p” and “b” or “f” and “v” can be distinguished.
Other families take an auditory-oral approach. Here, a child uses his or her natural hearing ability, along with speech-reading and hearing devices, to enhance speaking and language skills.
Language development begins early so parents should select the approach they feel is most appropriate for them and interact with their child as much as possible. Audiologists, ENTs, and pediatricians are able to provide more information about the choices available.
Assistive devices. Some devices enable a person with hearing loss to communicate in certain environments.
A personal FM amplifier uses a microphone to convert a classroom teacher’s voice into radio waves, which are transmitted to a receiver worn by the child.
Children with hearing loss are able to watch most televised programming using closed captions. Increasingly, movie theaters across the country also offer closed captioning.
Induction loop systems are be found in many churches, schools, airports, auditoriums, and other public spaces.
An induction loop system transmits audio signal directly into a hearing aid via a magnetic field, greatly reducing background noise, competing sounds, reverberation, and other acoustic distortions that reduce clarity of sound. These sounds are transmitted via hearing aids and cochlear implants equipped with a telecoil (t-coil).
Telecommunications relay services, available through all telephone companies, enable people with hearing loss to communicate on the phone. People can type in messages on a keyboard and view returned messages on a display screen, all through the help of a communications assistant who translates between the two telephone parties.
Sources: CDC, NIDCD
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