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Early intervention important when it comes to hearing loss in children

Jessica Lawson tests three-year-old Sam's hearing.

With a background in speech pathology, audiologist Jess Lawson is conscious of the long-term effects hearing loss can have on a child’s development.

“Younger is better. Parents should get on to any potential hearing issues as soon as possible,” she said.

This Hearing Awareness Week (1-7 March), Jess is encouraging parents to be aware of the range of issues that may affect a child’s hearing and possible consequences if they are not treated.

“The permanent part of a child’s hearing maybe fine but they may go through periods when their ears are all blocked up and they are not having clear access to speech sounds. If they are not hearing a good model of speech, then getting that right speech out can be tricky too,” she said.

Jess works at Gold Coast University Hospital testing the hearing of people of all ages but she particularly enjoys the challenge of finding different ways to engage with children to get the best outcomes from testing.

“The most challenging part of the job is when you can’t get to the child’s ears. Particularly if a child has frequent ear infections and their ears are sore,” she said.

“Building trust is really important. You might have to try a number of things to find what works for that child.”

Jess said there was a range of reasons a child could be referred for a hearing test.

 “Sometimes children have gone to the doctor because they have ear issues, or they have snoring issues or they are mouth breathing or not sleeping very well so they have been referred to an ear, nose and throat specialist who has then referred them on to us,” she said.

“If children are delayed in their speech, we do a test to check that it’s not a hearing loss that causing that.

“There may be concerns if your child is not hearing you when you are calling them, if they are not responding when you say their name. 

“If you feel like the hearing is okay but all of the sudden there are issues, it may be a temporary thing, but even temporary issues can turn in to a long-

term issue.

“And if it is permanent, we can get families off to Hearing Australia to get the help they need.”

Jess spent time as a speech pathologist with Gold Coast Health before pursuing her keen interest in hearing and becoming an audiologist.

“I love speech and I love working with people and communication. It’s really important to be able to communicate,” she said.

“It’s rewarding to be able to tell a family that a child’s hearing is all good. It’s also rewarding, if we identify a hearing loss, to be able explain what that is and to refer them to the right place where they can get help.”

Gold Coast Health advanced audiologist Jennifer Eakin said if parents were concerned about their child’s hearing, they should speak to their GP about a referral or contact their child’s Child Health Nurse to organise a hearing screen.

“There are some medical treatments for hearing loss that are time sensitive,” she said.

“If you do need to consider a hearing aid to help with communication, the longer you leave it, the harder it can be for your hearing system to adapt to the amplified sound.”

Last updated 31 Mar 2021