So many of us take our hearing for granted until it’s lost or someone close to us experiences hearing loss. This is especially true when children in our lives are affected by hearing loss. With a growing focus on hearing loss in children, its effects on their daily life and learning and how to prevent and treat it, researchers, organizations and institutions are looking to growing pools of data for answers and direction.
Hearing loss in children
While we often focus on total numbers of people living with hearing loss (millions in the United States alone!), did you know that approximately 1.4 babies in every 1000 have hearing loss? Add to that 14.9% of children 6 to 19 years of age who have low- or high-frequency hearing loss of at least 16-decibel hearing level in one or both ears according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and you have a huge number of children facing some potential struggles as they grow into adults. Whether their hearing impairment is due to genetics, certain medications, birth complications or another reason, experts agree that early diagnosis and treatment can make all the difference.
The Victorian Childhood Hearing Impairment Longitudinal Databank (VicCHILD) is now taking it one step further to help experts better understand hearing loss in children and to help these children and their families thrive. All with the help of data.
What is the VicCHILD?
VicCHILD is a population-based longitudinal data bank open to every child with permanent hearing loss in Victoria. The databank was started in 2012 by The Royal Children’s Hospital and MCRI. The project has continued to grow, adding to its potential impact, with 807 children enrolled at the end of 2018 and an expected 1000 or more children by 2020. This would make it the most extensive databank of its kind in the world.
Children taking part in the project provide data through parent questionnaires, children’s assessments and saliva samples. The information is collected first when they enroll, then at the age of two, again when they enter school and finally around the time they begin high school.
The VicCHILD team hopes that this comprehensive database for children with hearing loss could help experts to understand the effects of hearing loss better and how best to serve this population and as they learn and grow.
“As these children grow, they can face challenges in things that come naturally to others like language and learning. This can impact their quality of life,” says Murdoch Children’s Research Institute’s (MCRI) Dr. Valerie Sung.
“Hearing loss incurs significant burden and medical costs and impacts adversely on educational attainment and employment opportunities.”
“This important bank of information could improve interventions and ultimately the lives of children with hearing loss and their families. It will also act as a platform for research trials to understand the effectiveness of different interventions.”
The effects of hearing loss for children
Hearing healthcare professionals and hearing loss experts agree that when hearing loss is left untreated in children, it can lead to delays in language and speech and negatively impact social interaction and academic success.
While the data from VicCHILD indicates that early intervention may not always be the silver bullet, it is an important step in uncovering exactly how to support children with hearing loss so they can thrive in a hearing world.
If you believe your child may have hearing loss, contact our office to schedule a hearing evaluation.