“When we find evidence of hearing impairment in children, we do flag them for future interventions, and those efforts begin quite early,” Dr. Baguley said. “Certainly, by 4 years of age, we would be offering the patient and caregivers a plan for using CROS hearing aids or a similar, nonsurgical, fairly conservative treatment option.”
Explore this issue:March 2014
Moreover, it is important to remember that because the goal of treatment is to mitigate the psychosocial effects of the hearing loss, hearing aids should not be the only intervention offered. “We also reach out and talk with the child’s specialist teachers and explore whether loop hearing aids and other environmental sound reinforcements can be used, where possible, in the classrooms and other learning areas,” Dr. Baguley said.
Summing up, “I think the default is to intervene early, where appropriate, and to take a holistic approach,” he said. “But these are children, and again, the data on these management techniques are very limited. So we always proceed with caution.”
Dr. Lieu said that the research gap could be addressed with a study of controlled amplification to determine whether there is a clear benefit to language development and school performance. “I know there can be such benefits, but that’s based on my own empirical experience,” she said. “We need more data to show that definitively.”
Without such evidence, Dr. Lieu added, “my fear is that UHL will remain something of an invisible disability. And that’s not good for the patient, the family, the school—or the caregivers who are supposed to be advocating for these children.”
David Bronstein is a freelance medical writer based in New Jersey.