Can you hear me?
Many parents of pre school or early primary school aged children will read the title of this blog and smile at the fact that they probably say these words on a regular basis!
The same is true for many of the clients that I see. In many cases the answer is, “yes” your child can hear you but they are busy with something else or are choosing not to listen right at that moment. For some children however, depending on where you are when you speak to them, what background noise there is and how loudly you are speaking, it is possible tey are either not hearing you at all or are not hearing you well enough.
We can all relate to the feeling of our ears being blocked whether from a flight or from an ear infection or even due to blocked sinuses. This causes all the sounds we hear to become duller. Even as adults, this can affect our ability to focus, to feel balanced and function at our best.
Ear infections are far more common in children than they are in adults and 75% of children will have had at least one ear infection by the time they reach their third birthday. One of the reasons for this is that the tube of the inner ear ( the Eustachian tube) is still developing and is therefore smaller and lying in a different position to that of a child where this stage of development has passed. This in turn makes it easier for any excess fluid or wax to enter the inner ear and as a result, block out sound. Whilst for the vast majority of children, this hearing loss is transient and barely noticeable, for others who suffer from recurrent infections, there can be a longer term impact on behaviour and development as the child navigates the world with compromised hearing!
In our conversations with parents, we are told often that they didn’t realise their child wasn’t hearing properly and they often feel very guilty. If you think this might be true for your child here are some questions to consider and options for next steps:
1) Do they react to all sounds?
2) Are they able to understand and follow full instructions or do they miss parts?
3) Is their speech delayed? Is their diction clear and at the level of their peers?
4) How loud do they have the volume on the TV and how close is the screen to their face when they are watching something?
5) Do they complain of earache or have consistent ear infections?
6) How often do they ask you to repeat what you have said?
7) Do they tend to misbehave when there is background noise?
8) When they speak on the phone, are they able to sit still or do they move the phone from ear to ear and move their head?
If you are worried about your child and want to investigate further, your GP is a great place to start. They will be able to look in your child’s ear and check for any blockage or excess fluid. They will also be able to arrange a referral to a paediatric audiologist for a hearing test if required. If your child’s speech is your main cause for concern, your GP will also be able to organise a referral to a speech therapist.