Free guide helps parents address hearing loss in children

July 12, 2005

Hearing loss in more than a million American children is undetected or untreated, according to the Better Hearing Institute (BHI). That can cause more than academic problems; it can also lead to low-self esteem, attention deficit and difficulties understanding speech, especially when there is background noise. To help meet this challenge, the BHI is making available a free "Guide to Your Child's Hearing," which gives parents practical tips about how to recognize and address hearing loss in children. The guide was written by Judith Gravel, M.D., director of the Center for Childhood Communication at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, a multidisciplinary center that integrates audiology, speech language pathology, educational and family support services to meet the specific needs of each child.

In the new BHI guide, Dr. Gravel shows parents:"Our research shows one reason children with hearing problems aren't getting help is that some parents think that hearing aids will stigmatize their kids, embarrass them and cause people such as peers to treat them differently," said Dr. Sergei Kochkin, executive director of the not-for-profit BHI, which promotes better hearing with research and educational initiatives. "Parents often minimize their child's hearing loss despite strong evidence that even a mild hearing problem can cause behavioral and learning problems. If parents don't help their children -and themselves--to overcome the stigma associated with hearing problems, they are really shortchanging their kids. New hearing instruments have been developed specifically for children. Some come in bright colors and kids are even proud to wear them. So there is just no excuse for ignoring this problem."

"Even seemingly minor hearing problems can significantly impact on child's development," said Dr. Gravel. "If a child in grade school can't hear certain consonants correctly, it might not even be noticed by the parents or teachers. But that child is likely to have problems in academic areas. And in early life, even mild hearing loss may cause speech and language delay. So parents need to be vigilant about this."

At least 1.4 million American children younger than 18 have some form of hearing loss, according to Dr. Kochkin, who recently completed a new national survey of hearing loss. His study found that at least 1.2 million children do not have listening devices or hearing aids that could improve their lives, especially in the classroom. "But the number of children not getting help for hearing loss is probably much larger," notes Dr. Kochkin, as his survey documented only hearing loss that had already been identified by the parents of children. "Recent studies by pediatric audiology experts indicate that many more children have hearing problems that are not detected." The first installment of the full BHI survey, the most comprehensive of its kind, will be released in July 2005.
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To download a copy of the "A Guide to Your Child's Hearing," go to the BHI web site, www.betterhearing.org. Those without Internet access should call 1-800-EAR-WELL to order the Guide by mail. For more information about BHI, contact Sergei Kochkin at skochkin@betterhearing.org or 703-684-3391.

Founded in 1973, The Better Hearing Institute is a not-for-profit educational organization whose mission is to educate the public about hearing loss, its treatment and prevention.

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia was founded in 1855 as the nation's first pediatric hospital. Through its long-standing commitment to providing exceptional patient care, training new generations of pediatric healthcare professionals and pioneering major research initiatives, Children's Hospital has fostered many discoveries that have benefited children worldwide.

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

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