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October is National Audiology Awareness Month

Catching Hearing Loss Early Promotes Early Development

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Active toddler, Arav Naik with JFK Johnson Audiologist, Dr. Sarah Kader, during his quarterly follow-up tests at JFK Johnson Speech and Audiology. Photo: Insight Photography.

Arav Naik is your average toddler, talking, playing, and curious about the world around him. Two and a half years ago, however, his future looked very different. His parents, Mahesh and Shantala, of Edison, NJ, look back at his first few months, grateful for the fast action by the audiology team at JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute.

"Arav did not pass the newborn hearing test, conducted right after he was born at JFK Medical Center," said his father, Mahesh. He also did not pass the screening on a follow-up test and that worried us. Thanks to JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute’s experience with hearing problems in newborns, we were able to immediately go ahead with a comprehensive test, the Auditory Brainstem Response Evaluation (a test which measures auditory nerve reactions in response to sounds used to detect hearing loss). This test confirmed that Arav was ‘positive’ for mild to moderate hearing loss."

Early testing is vital. Hearing loss causes delays in the development of receptive and expressive communication skills (speech and language). Language deficits, in turn, cause learning problems that result in reduced academic achievement. Communication difficulties often lead to social isolation and potentially poor self-image. In the end, delayed development may have a profound impact on academic performance and vocational choices.

Even mild to moderate hearing loss may result in slow or inaccurate speech development, attention problems or other disabilities. Children with profound hearing loss will not develop speech and language skills and are more likely to require special intervention and education.

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Arav Naik with mom and dad, Shantala and Mahesh of Edison. Photo: Insight Photography

"At JFK Johnson, our goal is to diagnose hearing loss by three months of age and begin intervention by six months of age," noted Virginia Toth, Au.D., Manager of Audiology at the JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute. "We use the newest technology for diagnosis and intervention."

"After the comprehensive test at JFK Johnson, our primary audiologist, Dr. Sarah Kader, recommended hearing aids for Arav," said Mahesh. "We got him fitted as soon as possible, when he was about three months old. Dr. Kader also recommended an Early Intervention Program for Arav, which we got rolling soon after he got his hearing aids and still continues now. We also have an ongoing quarterly appointment for his behavioral tests done here."

Children who receive treatment such as hearing aids (for mild to severe hearing loss) or cochlear implants (for severe to profound hearing loss) are statistically better equipped to develop the language skills they need to succeed in school.

"Today, Arav is doing great and he has been consistently exceeding his developmental milestones," said, Mahesh. "His hearing loss has not worsened, he’s still undergoing early intervention therapies, and we take him for quarterly follow-up tests at JRI. The staff and facilities at JRI have been great, and Dr. Kader has been a guiding force for us to help Arav meet his goals."