Health A-Z

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In most cases, a child needs a full developmental, speech and language evaluation before treatment is planned.

Conductive hearing loss often can be corrected. For example, middle-ear infections and the associated fluid buildup can be treated and the child's hearing can be monitored. Surgery may be considered for some problems.

Sensorineural hearing loss is treated with hearing aids that amplify sound. They can be fitted for children as young as 4 weeks of age. Treating a child before 6 months of age can make a huge difference in language and speech development.

A relatively new treatment option for severe or profound sensorineural hearing loss is a cochlear implant. This device is surgically implanted in the skull. It helps to translate sound waves into signals that can reach the brain. Cochlear implants are approved in the United States for use in children older than 12 years of age.

Children with significant hearing loss also can learn sign language and lip reading to communicate with others.

Each option should be carefully considered and discussed with your child's physician. The discussion should take into account the needs of the child and his or her family.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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