It's nothing new, communication can be difficult, especially across generations. In an age where our interactions are dominated by character limits, slang, and the internet, those who grew up without a smart phone in their hands seem at odds with the rapidly maturing younger generations when it comes to getting a message across.
Now, what if it was not just technology keeping us from fluid, effective communication? What if older and younger generations alike experienced communication barriers due to difficulties with their own hearing, speech, and language? The truth is, hearing loss affects 48 million of Americans and 1 in 10 have a type of communication disorder. The good news is that many of them can benefit from the right treatment.
To shine light on this notion, the American Speech ‐ Language ‐ Hearing Association (ASHA) presents “Communication for All,” the theme to this year's Better Hearing & Speech Month (BHSM).
When the term “hearing loss” comes up, one may imagine a grandfather or a grandmother with a craned neck and cupped ear saying “What was that?” But according to the Better Hearing Institute, 65% of people with hearing loss are younger than 65 years old.
The impact of this hearing loss goes beyond mounting tensions across generations. In fact, a mild hearing loss can cause a child to miss as much as 50% of the classroom discussion. So how can you tell if a child is experiencing hearing loss?
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), young children present hearing loss with delayed or unclear speech but also in more seemingly normal ways such as often saying “Huh?,” turning up the TV too loud or simply not following directions. Although some of these seem to be standard procedure when raising a small child, it should be known that if these symptoms do not seem to improve over time, it's an indicator that your child may have some form of hearing loss.
To help further asses if your child is experiencing hearing loss, the CDC outlines that, by one year of age, your child should be responding to simple spoken requests, using simple gestures like shaking their head or waving “goodbye,” making sounds that change tone, saying simple words like “mama” and “dada” or “uh-oh” and attempting to replicate the words you are saying. Fast forward a year and your child should know names of familiar people and body parts, be speaking in sentences with two to four words, be able to follow simple instructions and repeat words they overhear in conversation.
Hearing loss can present itself at an even younger age, however. According to the American Journal of Audiology, 74% of children with mild hearing loss were identified though a newborn hearing screening. This screening can be done one of two ways, takes five to ten minutes, and can be done while your baby is asleep. Testing is done via either the Automated Auditory Brainstem Response (AABR) or the Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) tests. With AABR, the nerve response to sound is measured. Clicks or tones are softly played through earphones while three electrodes are placed on the baby's head to measure the hearing nerve's response. For the OAE, sound waves produced in the inner ear are measured with a tiny probe placed just inside the baby's ear canal. This measures the response when clicks or tones are produced in the baby's ear.
If your baby passed the newborn hearing test or you opted out of the testing, the CDC also outlines milestones babies should be hitting in the earliest stages of life. By two months, your baby should be cooing and making gurgling sounds while also turning their head toward sound. By four months, your baby should babbling with expression while also copying heard sounds. By this time, your baby should also be starting to demonstrate different cries for when they are hungry, tired, etc. And by six months of age, your baby should be responding to their name, responding by making sounds, audibly expressing joy and displeasure and be starting to string together vowel and consonant sounds amidst their jabbering.
So you've gotten your baby's hearing screening results back and it seems the newest member of the family is not hearing as sharply as you would like. Now what should you do?
In most cases, the answer is early intervention and early treatment. In the first three years especially, children's brains are developing quickly and it is important that they are exposed to consistent and frequent sound input. Getting your child fit with hearing aids or ‐ for those who qualify ‐ cochlear implants ‐ at a younger age can foster healthy speech and language development. Start figuring out your child's best option by scheduling a hearing care appointment.
However it's not just babies who can greatly benefit from hearing aids. Studies show that hearing aids can delay the onset of dementia and cognitive decline in older adults, and improve the communication and well-being of people of all ages. According to the Better Hearing Institute, 91% of people fitted with a hearing aid in the last year say they are satisfied. Despite the positive results, the Better Hearing Institute also reports seven out of 10 people who say they have difficulty hearing do not use hearing aids.
For example, professional musicians are four times more likely to suffer from hearing disorders and have a 57% higher risk of tinnitus than the general public. Canadian Occupational Safety magazine found around a quarter of construction workers under the age of 25 do not protect their hearing in dangerous listening environments.
Regardless of age, occupation or gender everyone can benefit from precautions and healthy hearing habits like regularly scheduled hearing care appointments, remembering to use proper ear protection for the environment you are in, and by maintaining overall physical and mental health. So do not let your age keep you from embracing Better Hearing and Speech Month! There are still many ways you can celebrate this movement and the importance of your hearing health.
BHSM is presented by ASHA, a national professional, scientific and credentialing association for 198,000 members and affiliates who are audiologists, speech-language pathologists, speech language and hearing scientists, audiology and speech language pathology support personnel and students. To learn more about this organization, BHSM or how you can help support BHSM or similar initiatives, visit asha.org.
How do you plan on finishing up Better Hearing and Speech Month? How do you overcome challenges surrounding your hearing loss? Leave us a comment to let us know!
To take the next step toward better hearing and communication, schedule an appointment with an EarQ provider today.