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In your opinion, what would you do to best treat my son?



  • MrsPink123
    MrsPink123 Community member Posts: 2 Listener
    Hi Vicki,

    My son had normal hearing results at his newborn hearing test, as he got older they tested his hearing as he has not yet learnt to speak (he is 3.5). It was found that he has normal hearing in the Left hear but severe hearing loss in the right ear in the 2 to 4 KHz frequency range.

    At first we were told that because of his other problems (Autism, Learning Disability) that it would be wise to possibly get a hearing aid to help.

    The doctors were going to try to find out Why he has had this hearing loss as they have decided it is not glue ear.

    Now we have been told that they are not doing any more investigations, that he wont need a hearing aid as most children do fine with one good ear. They have said that our local team will be in touch (that was 6 months ago) to keep an eye on him to check that his hearing doesnt deteriorate even further. They did say that testing him would be impossible, due to his autism and very limited understanding he does not respond. To test his hearing they had to do an ABR test when he was under general anesthetic having an operation on something else.

    In your opinion, what would you do to best treat my son?

    I am at a loss as to wether to fight for them to find a reason, or to just take the advice and assume that all his problems have nothing to do with his hearing loss.

    Thanks for your help.

  • VickiKirwin
    VickiKirwin Community member Posts: 69 Courageous
    Hi Natalie

    Your son has a unilateral hearing loss (affecting one ear only) which is sometimes known as single-sided deafness. Children with unilateral hearing loss can usually hear a one-to-one conversation held in quiet surroundings easily with their 'good ear'. This means that a unilateral hearing loss doesn't usually prevent early language skills development so its unlikely that the hearing loss alone is responsible for the delay in your son's speech development.

    However, unilateral hearing loss does cause problems hearing sounds or speech on the poorer side, working out where sound is coming from or judging the distance the sound is coming from, and understanding speech when there is background noise. Overhearing helps build vocabulary and gives children grammar, and general knowledge. Children therefore need to be able to hear quiet conversation all around them, even though they aren't paying attention to it or when it may be about things that don't seem important for young children to hear.

    So as children get a bit older a unilateral hearing loss may become more significant and we have to make judgements on hearing aids or support needs in school based on the individual child and how they manage. Some signs of diificulties coping with a unilateral hearing loss may include problems concentrating, tiredness and frustration that affects their behaviour (because they use more energy concentrating on listening, particularly in noisy environments). Children may prefer to play alone and experience more difficulties than other children in reading and learning. All of these problems may also be experienced by children with learning difficulties and autism and it is therefore difficult to pick apart the contributing factors. I tend to think that for these children it is worth trying a hearing aid and making their hearing as good as we can to see whether it helps improve any of these aspects for them.

    At the least it is important that any carers, nursery staff, and later school know that he has a unilateral hearing loss and are able to make simple adjustments to help him (including speaking from the good side, reducing background noise as much as possible etc). If a hearing aid is used then you should receive additional support from the local authority's specialist education service (Teacher of the Deaf) who can advise you and any education settings further.

    Occasionally, a unilateral hearing loss can progress to both ears in young children. I therefore think its important that children with unilateral hearing loss do have regular hearing tests (at least annually but earlier if you noticed any changes in your son's hearing). The main investigation into the cause of unilateral hearing loss is an MRI scan which would mean further sedation/anaesthetic. It could be worth booking one in the future to repeat the ABR at the same time if your son is still unresponsive to behavioural hearing tests then. An MRI would look at the internal parts of the inner ear as a proportion of children are born with an abnormality of the cochlea that causes the unilateral hearing loss. If this is the case and the other side looks normal then you can be reassured that the other ear won't be affected in furture. However, if it doesn't show an abnormality then it doesn't tell us anything else about the cause of the hearing loss, and either way the scan is unlikely to affect how his hearing loss is managed so often parents do choose to delay or even not bother but do discuss with your audiology/ENT doctor.

    I hope that helps but let me know if it doesn't answer your question.

  • VickiKirwin
    VickiKirwin Community member Posts: 69 Courageous
    Just for information for any professionals reading this thread - there is a training day on Friday 15th June 2012 in Sheffield "Audiology and Learning Disabilities; From Finding to Fitting". The day will include lectures, workshops and a panel discussion. £99 per delegate. Lectures include Syndromes and Surveillance, Hearing assessment of Challenging Patients, Optimising Hearing Aid Fitting for Adults with Learning Disabilities, Tinnitus management for adults with Learning Disabilities, Psychological impact of Hearing Loss to Adults with Learning Disabilities, Workshops include Care Pathways and Service Provision for Adults with Learning Disabilities, Behaviour Changes in Adults with Learning Disabilities and Hearing Loss, Speech Discrimination tests for adults with learning disabilities. For application form & programme email or telephone 0114 226 6348.
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