When to Visit the Audiologist, by Drs. Rivka Strom & Shirley Pollak, Audiologists

Hearing challenges present themselves in different ways, especially with regards to children and adults. C’mon, we all remember the frustration we felt when asked to repeat ourselves to our grandparent or neighbor once again (for the fourth time!!!)…but what about that baby who is seemingly so content and happy but also quiet because he misses half of what is being said around him….or what about the child who does not laugh at his friend’s joke because although he heard what was said, he did not hear the subtle cues in the spoken phrase. How about the child who has difficulty picking up a second language or who has to work extra hard in school to follow directions in his first language? Did you stop to think it may be resulting from a hearing loss? Did it ever occur to you that he may be hearing at different levels every day or week because of a fluctuating hearing loss due to fluid buildup in his ears?
Parents do not run to specialists for a diagnosis; they want to hear that their child is ok…but when there is a problem, they are often thankful that it was caught early so that treatment can begin in a timely manner. It is important to understand that we, audiologists, are also here to rule out hearing loss in your child. We do not want to give our patients a diagnosis; however, when we are in the unfortunate situation that we find a problem, we are here to help you accept it so that you can move on to the next step of treatment. Whether the problem is a temporary one involving medical treatment, or a more permanent one involving hearing aids or aural (re)habilitation, we are here to hold your hands and walk through this with you but most importantly of all, to make it easier for your child to hear and enjoy living in this beautiful and yes- noisy – world of ours.
It is important that parents understand what audiologists do so that they will know when audiological testing is in order. Audiologists are hearing healthcare professionals who specialize in the diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of auditory and vestibular (balance) disorders in patients of all ages. Some audiologists specialize in the pediatric or geriatric population but many work with both age groups. Starting from the newborn period, audiologists are involved in the newborn hearing screening programs. Hearing loss is among the most common birth defect, affecting approximately 4-6 babies out of every thousand born. Currently, a majority of states mandate that hospitals and birthing centers screen infants for hearing loss before they are discharged. In New York, hospitals with over four hundred births per year must screen for hearing loss. Previously, the average age of identification of congenital hearing loss occurred at approximately 2 ½ to 3 years, well past the age of initial language development resulting in significant speech and language delays, learning deficits, or even behavior problems that could have been avoided if the hearing loss was identified early. The purpose of the newborn hearing screening program is to identify a child with hearing loss by the time they reach three months of age. According to the National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management (NCHAM) detecting and treating one child with hearing loss at birth saves $400,000 in special education costs by the time that child graduates from high school.
Audiologists are also involved in the Early Intervention process as a child is being evaluated for appropriate services. An audiological evaluation is often recommended for a child who is undergoing these evaluations through the Early Intervention Program to rule out hearing loss as a contributing factor to the suspected delay. As mentioned above, it is important to understand that the effects of hearing loss on a young child do not only include a speech and language delay. Especially if the hearing loss is of a mild or mild to moderate degree, effects can include social or behavioral problems or attention and focusing issues. The effects of hearing loss vary from child to child and can be manifested in many different ways. Even if you, the mother, feel that your child hears perfectly well, it is important to follow up with audiological evaluations to rule out mild, minimal or even unilateral hearing losses. Knowledge about your child’s hearing status will only help and never hurt in the long run.
Audiologists also test pre-school, elementary or high school aged children if medically indicated, if a child does not pass a hearing screening or if a child is struggling in school. We must remember that hearing can change over time, either due to a medical and treatable condition or due to a permanent progressive condition. It is always better to be in the know so that if a problem is identified, early intervention can help to offset some of the negative effects.

Dr. Shirley Pollak has been serving the Brooklyn community in clinical practice for 18 years and leads a team of highly competent and professional audiologists providing quality care and service and the highest level of hearing instrument technology. Their knowledge and expertise combined with the latest hearing health care breakthroughs, computerization, ultramodern techniques, and state-of-the-art systems – allows them to offer accurate and successful hearing technology fittings exactly tailored to the individual needs of each patient. She also does newborn hearing screening and can be reached at: Pollak Audiological 718-474-4744 and Rockaway Audiology and Hearing Aid Center: 718-421-2782. www.brooklynlearning.com

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