Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs: Answers to your questions about hear ME now
services, and the specialty of Listening and Spoken Language for children who are deaf or hard of hearing and their families.

Click on a question below to find the answer:

What types of hearing losses are found in children?

Answer: There are basically 3 types of hearing loss:

1. Permanent hearing loss: The result of something affecting the inner ear, or the nerve that deals with hearing (the auditory nerve) is called sensorineural hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by various conditions, including congenital infections, medications, noise, and genetics. Congenital hearing loss is present in three to six out of every 1000 newborns and is detectable at birth. Sensorineural hearing loss can also develop later in life for various reasons, one of which is excessive exposure to loud noise.

2. Conductive hearing loss: The result of something affecting the outer or middle ear, such as ear infections associated with fluid in the middle ear space. Middle ear infections are the second-most common reason children see physicians. Any time children have middle ear infections with fluid in their ears, they have an accompanying hearing loss. Other common causes of conductive hearing loss include excess wax, foreign bodies, or swelling of the auditory canal. In most cases, conductive hearing losses can be treated either

3. Mixed hearing losses: Combinations of sensorineural and conductive hearing losses.

Can a newborn be assessed for a hearing loss?

Answer: Yes. Newborns even minutes old can be screened for hearing loss through several testing methods (an evoked otoacoustic emissions test, or an automated auditory brainstem response test), which are non-invasive, computerized, and take only a short period of time. The earlier a child is diagnosed with a hearing loss, the earlier they can obtain appropriate treatment, and consequently develop speech and language skills along with their peers. And because hearing loss is one of the most common health conditions to affect newborns, the National Institutes of Health, American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Joint Committee on Infant Hearing, recommend that all newborns be screened for hearing loss prior to discharge from the hospital. The Maine Newborn Hearing Program is responsible for newborn screenings in Maine.

What should I do if I suspect my child has a hearing loss and I live in Maine?

Answer: The first thing to do if you suspect a hearing loss in your child is to have this or her hearing assessed as quickly as possible. Begin by taking your child to your family’s primary care physician, who should examine your child and interact with him or her. Your physician will ask you several questions regarding family history of hearing loss; your family’s and your child’s past medical history, and your concerns about why you believe your child has a hearing loss. Your primary care physician will then refer you to a local Maine ENT doctor (an otolaryngologist) and/or an audiologist who will perform a series of tests to assess your child’s hearing. Parents are the first people to most frequently suspect hearing loss in their children, not healthcare professionals. We encourage you to trust your instincts, and if you’re concerned about a hearing loss in your child, request a hearing test by an audiologist. hear ME now can provide you with contact information for audiologists that specialize in pediatrics.

What are the first signs parents should look for when a hearing loss in their child is suspected?

Answer: Unless a family has reason to expect the possibility of a hearing loss, it’s easy to miss some of the early signs. You should be concerned if you notice that:

Your infant does not startle to loud or sudden noises, or turn toward sound.
By 8 months, the baby is not cooing, babbling, or laughing.
By 12 months, the child is not trying to imitate sounds and actions in turn-taking games, or understanding simple commands like “come here”. Babies of this age should also try to attract attention by using sounds.
It’s important to test your child’s hearing as soon as you suspect a problem. If there is a hearing loss, it can be assessed and when appropriate, the baby can be fitted with hearing aids and begin early intervention services.

If my baby passes the screening, is everything okay? If they fail, are they deaf or hard-of-hearing?

Answer: The screening is a simple test done by an audiologist and takes only a few minutes to perform. It is not a comprehensive testing of hearing. Its purpose is to identify babies that need further testing to determine the presence of a hearing loss. If a baby does not pass the screening test, more thorough hearing testing is normally done before a diagnosis is made. It is important for parents to realize that in screening, there can be “false positives.” Screenings are not comprehensive. A baby may fail the screening, but follow-up testing can indicate no hearing loss. On the other hand, a baby may pass the screening, yet in time, a hearing loss may be identified.

How often should a child have his or her hearing tested if there’s any concern?

Answer: Initially, when a hearing loss is suspected, it’s recommended that a child undergo testing using an Auditory Brain Response (ABR), which does not require the child to respond; rather it measures brain activity. If the ABR reveals a hearing loss, more testing is usually done.

Most Audiologists recommend that children under 3 years of age be tested every 6 months. After that, a comprehensive evaluation once a year should be sufficient.

What can I expect to be done for my child if a hearing loss is identified?

Answer: Today, there are many options available for children with hearing loss. Children as young as 3 months of age can be fitted with hearing aids. Toddlers with profound hearing loss are now using cochlear implants. Communication options exist as well, ranging from auditory-oral, auditory-verbal and Cued Speech approaches, to American Sign Language and Total Communication.

Choices of Deafness by Sue Schwartz, PhD (available through AG Bell) provides parents with a solid background in each of these options. BEGINNINGS also provides a comprehensive guide for parents.

It’s crucial to diagnose hearing loss in children as early as possible so that amplification technology can be used to get sound to the child’s developing brain as soon as possible. Children diagnosed prior to 6 months of age and fitted with either hearing aids or cochlear implants, along with vigorous speech, language, and aural rehabilitation, develop close to – or at the same rate – as their peers.

The key is early diagnosis, early access and early intervention for auditory brain development.

Can loud noises affect children’s hearing?

Answer: Yes, so it’s very important to protect hearing. Very loud noises can damage one’s hearing, and can do so permanently. Exposure to high intensity noise can permanently damage the inner ear. Headphones, rock concerts, video arcades, and very loud noises should be avoided if possible, and if unavoidable, protective earplugs should be worn during exposure.

Can my child with a hearing impairment learn to talk with hearing aids, or is a cochlear implant necessary?

Answer: Children with all degrees of hearing loss can use hearing aids, a cochlear implant or a combination of the two to gain access to the speech and sounds that help them learn how to talk. Strong partnerships between families, teachers and audiologists are essential to maximizing the potential of technology to help a child with hearing loss learn how to speak.

Can my hearing impaired child learn to talk, even if she’s been learning sign language?

Answer: Some children do start learning to communicate with sign language, and that does not preclude them from making a transition to spoken language. Every child and family is unique, so it’s important to talk to a wide selection of families and professionals with different experiences. What works for your family will be what’s right for you.

What is a cochlear implant?

Answer: A cochlear implant is advanced technology for children and adults who do not benefit from hearing aids. Cochlear Implant procedures for adults are now available at Mercy Hospital in Portland, Maine.

Cochlear implants have several parts: An electrode array that is surgically implanted in the inner ear (cochlea); a receiver that is surgically placed behind the ear; and a microphone and processor which are worn externally.

The cochlear implant takes in and converts acoustic sound energy into electrical signals that stimulate the auditory nerve in the cochlea, sending the signal to the brain where it is perceived as sound.

What is a personal FM system?

Answer: A personal FM system works with a person’s hearing aid or cochlear implant. The receiver is small and connects directly to the hearing device. The pager-sized transmitter and microphone are worn by the speaker, therapist or teacher, to send speech directly to the child’s equipment by FM signal. FM systems help overcome the negative effects of ambient noise, distance, and reverberation, which make listening and learning more difficult for a person who has a hearing loss.

What kind of support do parents need?

Answer: Mothers and fathers who when they learn that their child is deaf or hard-of-hearing are often overwhelmed by a whole range of emotions. These feelings are natural and are honored within the hear ME now community. At the same time, they must quickly learn a great deal about practical issues and begin managing their child’s tests and therapy. Studies show that parents who become educated about deafness and join some type of networking or parent support group tend to better accept their child’s deafness and move on to planning for their child’s immediate and long-range needs. hear ME now exists to offer support for Maine parents of children with a hearing loss.

Educators and therapists can help a child get a good start in the development of spoken language and teach parents how to carry out the same training at home. The more involved parents are, while maintaining a balance within the family, the more the deaf and hard-of-hearing child will benefit.

What role do parents play in the education of their child who is deaf or hard-of-hearing?

Answer: Parents and guardians have a major role in the education of their child, because they are the ones who will choose the type of education and support it at home. Parents must become educated about different communication options in order to make their own informed decision of what is best for their child who is deaf or hard-of-hearing and their family. Once parents decide to choose the auditory oral option, they can and should expect excellent support from teachers, therapists and other members of their professional support system.

If you are a parent of a child who is deaf or hard-of-hearing and you live in Maine, we can help you become adept in the listening and spoken language skills and techniques that work with your child,. Learn about our programs for Maine parents of deaf children.
While you’ll also rely on your educators, you’re always remain the primary advocate and teacher for your own child. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997 (IDEA ’97: PL 105-17) is very clear on the role and rights of parents in the life of their child.

How long before I can expect to see results (my child talking) from intensive educational and speech training?

Answer: In a good listening therapy setting, with qualified Listening and Spoken Language Specialists progress should be obvious to parents in the first 6 months. Learning to listen with the child’s available residual hearing is a slow and steady process. When a child begins to listen and make sense of what he is hearing, speech usually follows. Contact us to learn how you can support and enhance your child’s progress.

Why is it easier to understand some deaf children and not others?

Answer: Usually it’s easier to understand the speech of deaf children who are making good use of their auditory potential. This is because good listening helps the child hear his or her own speech, as well as helping him or her to pick up on the natural rhythm and inflection of normal speech patterns. This is one major reason that early listening and speech intervention is important for a child who is deaf or hearing impaired.

Will my hearing-impaired child be happy?

Answer: Most children are happy and enthusiastic about life. Children who feel secure, have a good self-image, and are loved as well as loving, are happy children.

Parents must ensure that their deaf or hard-of-hearing child is not treated differently, that she or he learns to take responsibility for his or her behaviors, that he or she learns the give and take of life, and that she or he is not the center of everyone’s attention.

Can deaf children play sports?

Answer: Many children who are deaf or hard-of-hearing love sports the same way as their hearing peers. If the child enjoys sports, he or she will most likely want to play; if not, a child who is deaf will avoid sports just as other hearing children would.

Not every hearing child excels in sports and the same holds true for children who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.

What types of jobs will my child be able to get?

Answer: People who are deaf or hard-of-hearing become doctors, lawyers, teachers, computer programmers, dentists, nurses, medical technologists, factory workers, mechanics, Mr. Moms, stay-at-home moms, designers, and so forth.

People with normal hearing are able to get good jobs usually because they have the appropriate education, work ethic, and/or training. The same holds true with people who are deaf and hard-of-hearing.

With whom will my child be able to communicate? When will my child be able to communicate with his peers?

Answer: Most deaf or hard-of-hearing children who are orally trained can communicate very successfully with whomever he or she chooses, using normal listening and spoken language, much like their hearing peers. The process takes time, and requires more deliberate care, but the outcome is communication with the world!

Contact us if you have additional questions about Maine services for a child with a hearing loss