As a Speech Therapist, one of the first questions we address when assessing a child with a possible speech or language delay is whether the child’s hearing has been tested. In Ontario, all babies receive an infant hearing screening before being discharged from the hospital. However, hearing, like vision, is not an ‘all-or-nothing’. In other words, even if a child hears, it is important to know how well he hears to ensure we are capitalizing on the critical language learning period which occurs between 0-5 years of age. Additionally, children with recurrent ear infections, may have residual fluid in their ears for up to three months post-infection. Monitoring a child’s hearing is essential to treatment planning.
How do we ensure good hearing hygiene in our babies, toddlers, children, and adolescents?
The Infancy Period:
- White noise machines, used as a sleep aid for some babies, should be on a lower volume setting, placed not too close to baby’s head, and used for limited periods of time.
The Toddler Years:
- TOYS: Many toys have two volume settings. Remember to use the lower setting as toddlers tend to play with the toys in close range to their ears.
- SCREENS: When using iPhones, iPads, and televisions, be sure the volume is just loud enough to be heard comfortably, but not so loud that there is a need to raise one’s voice to be heard above the noise.
School-Age and Beyond:
- EAR BUDS: For individuals using earphones, the amount of use should be regulated. Please refer to the article “How Loud is too Loud and How Long is too Long?”
Additionally, if earphones are used in noisy environments, such as on the bus, subway, or at a restaurant, look for noise-cancelling headphones. These help reduce background noise, so that there is no need to increase the volume on the device to compete with the background noise.
- EAR PLUGS: Ear plugs are strongly recommended at concerts, theatres, and shows where noise levels may be elevated. Ringing in the ears may occur after such noise exposure and this is a sign that noise induced hearing loss may have occurred.
For further information on hearing health, visit ASHA (American Speech-Language and Hearing Association) or SAC (Speech-Language and Audiology Canada).