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Hearing Impairment

Practice Essentials

Hearing loss is more prevalent than diabetes mellitus, myelomeningocele, all pediatric cancers, and numerous other medical conditions.
 However, medical professionals typically learn little about hearing impairment, about how to advise parents of children who are deaf or hard of hearing, or about the special considerations needed in the care of children with hearing loss.

In the past two decades, recommendations for universal neonatal hearing screening resulted in numerous articles regarding the tests, the efficacy of testing, the role of the audiologist in amplification, and the importance of early intervention programs.

The role of the primary care physician cannot be overemphasized. In many instances, the otolaryngologist develops a long-term relationship with patients and their families, caring for the patients through their spectrum of development, especially if the otolaryngologist is part of a cochlear implant program. In addition to the surgeon, most cochlear implant teams include audiologists, speech therapists, and, sometimes, social workers. These teams can be very helpful to deaf children, their families, and their primary care physicians.

Pediatricians play a crucial role in providing referrals to audiologists, otolaryngologists, and special programs. To do so, they must understand the nature of hearing loss and the equipment that can improve auditory reception, the linguistic and social development of children who have hearing impairment, and the educational and linguistic options available to children who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The goals must always be to integrate the child into the family and into society and to enable the growth and development of a healthy, confident child who is deaf or hard of hearing. To meet these goals, clinicians should use whichever communication strategy and equipment that is best suited for the individual child and his or her family.

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