Hearing Health

Children's Hearing Difficulties

As an adult we are fortunate to retain memory of sounds and pictures that can ‘trigger’ these memories of sounds lost. In a toddler or newborn these sounds have not yet developed into picture memories or meaning for language and communication.

Hearing loss comes in several levels and degrees. In a mild form, when in the ideal situation without background noise you are likely to hear reasonably well but in profound form communication and learning language will be very challenging.

Children's hearing levels: Speech and Degrees of Hearing Loss

Temporary hearing loss in childhood (glue ear)

Temporary hearing loss in childhood associated with colds or ear infections is very common, particularly in pre-school children. Ears can become blocked with fluid in the middle part of the ear causing a mild to moderate hearing loss. In the majority of cases this resolves within a few weeks. Where hearing is affected for longer periods of time there may be an impact on speech and language development or school progress. In some cases treatment is recommended which may include referral to the Ear Nose and Throat department for surgical intervention (grommets) or provision of hearing aids.

NDCS glue ear booklet: Glue ear - a guide for parents

Listening difficulties (auditory processing difficulties)

Listening is a complex process depending on more than just peripheral hearing. Some children appear to struggle even with normal hearing thresholds. Processing a complex signal such as speech takes practice and time to develop. Young children often need more time to understand what is said to them.

Many children with listening difficulties are reported to be easily distracted. particularly by visual input and background noise. A moderate level of background noise makes it difficult for most people to hear speech or instruction clearly, the distraction of our thought processes when in peripheral noise to some can make it impossible to give good attention to the appropriate source. Giving important information in a calm, quiet setting while using face to face contact can make it very much easier for a child to retain the facts. Rephrasing (rather than repeating) and using a slightly slower pace of speech can also be very useful techniques. 

Other strategies are available on the following document: Listening and Attention Difficulties

Permanent hearing loss in childhood

1 to 2 children per 1000 are born with a permanent degree of deafness which is usually identified through the Newborn hearing Screening Programme. A further 1-2 per 1000 will acquire a hearing loss during childhood following illness such as meningitis or genetic conditions. Early identification of hearing loss is important so the right monitoring and  help can be provided. This will continue throughout childhood due to the impact even a mild degree of deafness can have on development and education.

Sound sensitivity

The world is a loud place for little ears and sensitivity to loud sounds is a common problem for many children under the age of six. Evidence suggests that up to 15% of children find loud sounds uncomfortable or upsetting.

There are simple strategies you can use to help: Sound Sensitivity in Children

Tinnitus in childhood

Tinnitus (strange noises in the head or ears) is surprisingly common in childhood. Many children cope well with it and may not report it as they consider it 'normal'. Some do find it scary or confusing. For some it can impact on sleep or their ability to concentrate. In these cases help with management and support strategies can be offered by the hearing therapy team.

The British Tinnitus Association offers further support: BTA Support for children

Services for deaf and hearing-impaired children and families

Professionals who may be involved in caring for your hearing-impaired child

Chime Social Enterprise works closely with other professionals from health, education, and social care to ensure the best ongoing care and support for children with a hearing impairment.

The reasons for referral to other professionals will always be discussed with parents and for some referrals written consent may be needed.

Some of the other professionals involved in your child's care: People involved in your child's care

Devon Children's Hearing Services Working Group (CHSWG)

This is a multi-agency group comprising of professionals from health, education and social care as well as parents of deaf or hearing-impaired children and voluntary sector representatives. We meet regularly with agreed 'terms of reference' to review and improve services provided in this area for deaf and hearing-impaired children. An annual report of activity is published for stakeholders and commissioners.

Useful CHSWG links: CHSWG Flyer   CHSWG report   CHSWG terms of reference

Happy Hands

  • Happy Hands is a drop-in support/play group run by the Teachers of the Deaf where you can meet other parents and deaf or hearing-impaired adults.
  • An Audiologist regularly attends to take impresions for new earmoulds.
  • it offers a stimulating environment for your child to meet other 0-5 deaf or hearing-impaired children
  • Activities include singing, signing, stories, craft activities, snacks.

Link to the Babcock website for further Happy Hands details: Happy Hands

Auditory Processing Disorder