Pediatric acoustics is a branch of hearing care that focuses on hearing care for children. For every 1000 children, one or two are already hearing impaired at birth. This poses a risk to the child's personal as well as language development, which is why early, active hearing support is significant in preventing language development problems. Hearing care professionals who specialize in the treatment of hearing-impaired children are called pediatric acousticians. The professional field of pediatric acoustics requires knowledge of special features of the auditory canal of children and infants, as well as sensitivity in dealing with child patients and their parents.
Requirements and further training to become a pediatric acoustician
To undergo further training from hearing care professional to pediatric acoustician, three years of professional experience or a master hearing care professional title is required. 'Pediatric acoustician' is not yet a protected term, accordingly hearing care professionals can call themselves pediatric acousticians even without further training. The continuing education includes theoretical and legal as well as practical content, which includes medical knowledge on children's hearing and speech development on the one hand, and practical application knowledge on measuring hearing loss and hearing aid fitting in children.
In addition, skills in dealing and communicating with pediatric patients must be learned, as well as the sensitivity needed to involve parents. These components are addressed as part of an educational learning block. Within the treatment a holistic view of the child is intended, in which also possible accompanying, for example logopedic, therapy possibilities are included. Knowledge of further therapy measures is a prerequisite for this, and psychological knowledge also supports sensitive counseling. Successful examination of children is only possible if the necessary specialist knowledge is supplemented with working material suitable for children.
Finding a pediatric audiologist
It can be assumed that hearing care professionals who have been trained as pediatric acousticians have the necessary expertise to treat infants and children up to 17 years of age. When choosing an appropriate acoustician, geographic location is a valid decision factor. Since relatively frequent visits are to be expected, the pediatric acoustician should be within easy driving distance if possible. However, it is much more important that the child and parents feel they are in good hands and can build up a relationship of trust with the practitioner. A good feeling is especially crucial for the child's well-being and has a positive effect on the treatment process.
Hearing loss in children
One to two out of every 1000 children are already hearing impaired at birth. Several signs may indicate hearing loss in children:
- Failing to attempt to imitate spoken words
- Disinterest in sounds or music
- Strict concentration when listening
- Very loud speech
- Failure to respond when approached by the child
Triggers are varied, ranging from maternal illnesses (e.g., toxoplasmosis, cytomegalovirus, rubella) to birth complications (e.g., oxygen deprivation) to childhood illnesses (e.g., measles and mumps in rare cases). Likewise, genetic defects can increase the likelihood of hearing loss prenatally. In childhood, middle ear infections or excessive noise are additional risk factors for hearing loss.
For early detection of hearing problems, all tests counted as pediatric acoustics should be perceived in the U3 to U8 examinations. These are usually covered by health insurance. Detection as early as possible can contribute to the success of hearing care treatment and prevent potentially negative influences on the child's (speech) development.
Hearing aids for children
With the help of the pediatric audiologist, appropriate hearing aids are selected and fitted for the child patient. The devices differ from adult devices in shape, color and features. No ITE hearing aids are considered for children because of the little space available in the auditory canal. In terms of color, however, the spectrum is broader: a range of bright colors is available to make them particularly appealing to young wearers. To ensure that the hearing impairment does not get in the way of children's play, children's hearing aids are robust, dust-resistant and waterproof. Additional accessories also provide security to prevent them from being lost.