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Treating your child's hearing loss
As an audiologist, I often work with parents who are concerned about their child’s hearing. Hearing loss is a huge concern for parents who understand it can impair speech and language skills as their child develops.
How hearing loss can affect a child
- Typically, children find it more difficult to learn vocabulary, grammar, word order and other aspects of verbal communication.
- Some children with hearing loss experience delays in speech development, as they often cannot hear quiet speech sounds, such as “s,” “f” and “t.”
- Children with hearing loss may also have difficulty hearing their own voices and may not realize they are speaking loudly or mumbling as the sound of their own speech isn’t clear to them.
- Hearing loss can also affect a child’s ability to develop social and emotional skills. Many children with untreated hearing loss will report feeling isolated or unhappy in school.
Help for your child’s hearing
Approximately one to six of every 1,000 newborns are born with hearing loss every year. By the time they are between the ages of six and 19, about 15 percent of children have hearing loss in at least one ear. Appropriate management of hearing loss is instrumental in helping kids succeed in their development. Children who utilize amplification devices, which include hearing aids, the Baha system and cochlear implants, show accelerated growth patterns and better early language outcomes.
The Baha system explained
The Baha is a surgically implantable system for treatment of hearing loss. It works by enhancing natural bone transmission as a pathway for sound to travel to the inner ear —
bypassing the external auditory canal and middle ear. The titanium implant is placed during a short outpatient surgical procedure. The Baha system was first used in Europe in 1977 and was approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in the U.S. in 1996 to treat hearing losses with a conductive component. In 2002, the FDA approved the use of Baha for treatment of cases of single-sided sensorineural deafness.
How the Baha system works
There are three primary parts to a Baha system:
- The external sound processor, which is responsible for picking up and collecting the sounds around you.
- An abutment or a magnet, which connects the processor to the titanium implant and converts sound into vibrations that are transferred through the abutment or magnet.
- The titanium implant, which is inserted into the bone and, over several months, naturally integrates with the mastoid portion of the temporal bone behind the ear. This implant transfers the vibrations through the skull to the inner ear and functioning cochlea.
Is your child a candidate for Baha?
The Baha system is used as an option for people of all ages with the following:
- Conductive hearing loss, or hearing loss caused by a problem in the middle ear space, such as chronic ear infections or a hole in the eardrum. It may also be the result of a malformation of the outer ear, ear canal or middle ear structures, such as the middle ear bones.
- Mixed hearing loss, or hearing loss caused by a problem in both the middle ear and the inner ear.
- Single-sided deafness.
- Someone who has complications from constant ear drainage.
- Someone who has had complicated middle ear surgeries that prevent them from using hearing aids.
- Someone born without a fully developed ear on one side.
Life with the Baha system
Not only do patients regain the ability to hear more clearly, they also are able to continue a wide range of physical activity, including participating in sports, following surgery. If you are concerned about hearing loss in your child or would like to schedule a hearing screening, make sure to talk to your primary health care provider who can refer you to an audiology expert for help.Katie Kendhammer, Au.D., is an audiologist with Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato.