New Jersey mom Haleh Resnick was understandably concerned when her newborn son failed his first hearing test. But she was really dismayed when he failed a second, and doctors then suggested he had substantial hearing loss. On the advice of the physicians, she got her child fitted for hearing aids, but soon noticed that they caused him pain. He flinched at loud noises and seemed to hear fine without aids.
She stopped using the devices and took her child to a specialist, who diagnosed him with a condition called auditory neuropathy. In children with auditory neuropathy, who make up approximately 15 percent of the 12,000 newborns a year diagnosed with hearing loss, sounds enter the inner ear normally, but the transmission of those signals to the brain is impaired. Some children diagnosed with auditory neuropathy end up with perfect hearing, while others suffer profound hearing loss.
In most children with auditory neuropathy, hearing aids damage the ears by overamplifying sounds, Deborah Hayes, an audiologist and professor of physical medicine, rehabilitation, and pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, told CNN.com.
“If a very compliant parent puts the hearing aids on their baby every day, it can cause permanent damage within a week,” Hayes says. A professor at the University of South Florida said he knows of many cases in which hearing aids actually destroyed the hearing of children with auditory neuropathy.
Most children prescribed hearing aids do in fact need them, but if you suspect your child has auditory neuropathy, speak with his or her doctors and educate yourself about the disease before trying aids. Also, talk to other parents of children with the condition and trust your gut. If, like Resnick, you feel your child can hear and doesn’t need hearing aids, tell your doctor and audiologist. If they won’t listen to you, find someone who will.
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