Parents can prevent misdiagnosis of hearing loss: audiologist 0
Erica Chang, 7, now attends a Vancouver private school where the teacher speaks into a microphone that connects sound directly to her hearing aid. (PHOTO SUBMITTED)
A B.C. audiologist is calling for parents to help challenge the growing pattern of children’s hearing loss, especially since a hearing aid or implant early on could prevent a “developmental delay” misdiagnosis later.
Med-El audiologist Todd Mitchell said the proliferation of loud music devices, television screens, concerts and even fireworks festivals attended by youth have caused a jump in the number of teens developing often-undiagnosed hearing loss.
According to numbers from a 2006 American study, one-in-five U.S. youth had some form of hearing disability, representing a 30% jump over a decade.
While B.C. has eliminated new undiagnosed gene-borne hearing disabilities by testing all infants at birth for hearing loss since 2009, Mitchell said it’s now the group born before that time and those who develop hearing problems after birth that parents have to worry about.
“It can kind of be an invisible disability,” he said. “People can jump to other conclusions, saying little Johnny just isn’t paying attention, that’s why he’s doing bad (in class). Well, it might be that he just can’t hear very well.”
In the case of seven-year-old Vancouverite Erica Chang, her mother Margaret Liu had always known something was up with her daughter’s behaviour.
There were signs in how Chang was late in speech development and would be unusually quiet. It wasn’t until one day when Liu noticed her daughter had ignored a blaring ambulance siren that made everyone else turn, that she went to seek medical help.
The Taiwanese doctors who diagnosed Chang’s hearing loss — the family was visiting relatives in Asia at the time — first checked the then-two-year-old for autism and emotional behaviour.
“The last part was hearing and the doctors confirmed she does have hearing loss,” Liu said.
More hearing tests followed when the family returned to Canada and Liu’s daughter was eventually enrolled in a $350-per-month hearing program, where Chang attended until kindergarten.
Liu’s daughter now attends a Vancouver private school where teachers use an FM signal to talk directly from a microphone into Chang’s hearing aid, a technology Mitchell said is now available to all B.C. pupils.
The audiologist adds a free online hearing test can be found at medel.com/ca/hearing-test.