Infants who receive a hearing aid for mild hearing loss do not typically see significant language improvements once they reach school age, new research has found.
The newborn hearing screening test has detected many more babies over the past 17 years with mild hearing loss, who previously would have gone undetected. They are receiving hearing aids earlier than ever before, typically aged five months but some aged as young as two months.
Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, from four studies run over 20 years, compared the language development of 146 children at age 5-8 years with mild to moderate hearing loss and found that the mildly impaired did not show the same clear benefit from hearing aids as children with moderate hearing loss. “We know that if we find kids with really big hearing losses early and fit them with amplification — a hearing aid or cochlear implant — their language and whole of life outcomes are better,” said lead author Peter Carew.
“There are certainly children with mild hearing loss who clearly benefit from a hearing aid. We need more research to determine whether it’s appropriate for all children to have one early on.”
Mr Carew, who is also an audiologist, said while wearing hearing aids would not necessarily harm the child, they were a significant cost to the health system and took much family effort.