It has long been understood that deafness in early childhood is associated with permanent changes in the way the brain processes sound. New research shows that young kids with even mild to moderate hearing loss in Louisville will experience similar changes.
Mild to Moderate Childhood Hearing Loss
Researchers at the University of Cambridge conducted a recent study to learn what happens in the brains of children with mild to moderate hearing loss when listening to sounds.
How did the study group its participants?
The team, led by Dr. Lorna Halliday of the MR Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, divided 46 children with permanent hearing loss into two groups based on age; younger kids aged 8-12, and older ones between the ages of 12-16.
How did the team measure auditory processing?
The team relied on an electroencephalogram (EEG) to measure their brain responses when external sound stimuli were introduced.
What did the Cambridge study on Childhood Deafness find?
The younger children had brain responses similar to those in kids with normal hearing, but the older group’s responses were smaller in comparison to children their age with normal hearing.
Drilling down a little deeper, the researchers followed up by retesting some of the children from the younger group six years after the original study.
Age affects hearing loss, even in children
Their results confirmed that brain responses changed as the children with hearing loss grew older. Specifically, responses that occurred when they were younger disappeared or grew smaller by the time the kids were older. This doesn’t mean that their hearing loss grew worse, but rather, indicates that a “functional reorganization” had occurred.
What did Dr. Axelle Calcus determine?
Dr. Axelle Calcus, the paper’s lead author, explained, “We know that children’s brains develop in response to exposure to sounds, so it should not be too surprising that even mild-to-moderate levels of hearing loss can lead to changes in the brain. However, this does suggest that we need to identify these problems at an earlier stage than is currently the case.”
How will this study impact the diagnosis of hearing loss in children?
The team’s findings may change how babies are screened for hearing loss.
Currently, newborn hearing screenings do a good job of detecting moderate to profound levels of hearing loss but fall short in picking up mild hearing loss.
Because early intervention is crucial, this means kids with mild hearing loss might not be diagnosed until much later, which could severely impact their language and social development, as well as their academic performance.
The auditory system, responsible for processing sounds in the brain, undergoes development throughout childhood. Children who are profoundly deaf experience the functional reorganization hinted at in the study; in other words, their brains become better adapted at responding more to visual, rather than auditory, stimuli.
What should you do if your child displays hearing difficulties?
If you are at all concerned about your child’s hearing, reach out to an audiologist in Louisville to schedule a hearing exam. The sooner a problem is discovered, the less likely it is to affect your child’s language development.
Learn more about hearing loss in children:
- Facts for Louisville Parents with Deaf or Hard of Hearing Kids
- Can Hand Dryers Hurt Kids’ Ears?
- How to Protect Your Kids’ Ears from Noise-Induced Hearing Loss