Health Topics: Hearing and Vision
Column by Tutu and Me
Readiness for school starts developing on the day of birth. In Hawaii, all babies have a test of their hearing nerve before they leave the hospital. Hearing problems starting after birth may be temporary and restored through medical treatment or minor surgery. Hearing loss can result from ear infection, excessive ear wax, injury, medication toxic to the ear, or from complications of viral infections like the flu, chicken pox, mononucleosis and meningitis. Most children use 200 or more words by age 2 to 3, and 2000 words by age 4½. In the United States, hearing loss – mild and severe – affects two in every 100 children under age 18.
Vision screening is usually done by a primary care provider at regular intervals, but can be difficult to do with a young child who is frightened or distracted. Strabismus is a misalignment of the eyes (“crossed” or drifting eyes) common in infants and usually resolves by age 3 months. Farsightedness in a young child may result in strabismus unless corrective glasses are used. Untreated strabismus can cause amblyopia (“lazy eye”) with poor vision in one eye if not treated. Hearing and vision problems may also be hereditary.
Try this at home:
• Bring your child for regular well child checkups and tell your child’s health care provider about vision or hearing problems that run in your family.
• Observe your child for signs of possible hearing problems: radio or TV needs to be loud, has trouble answering simple questions or following directions, difficult to understand child’s speech, generally non-verbal, frequent colds or runny nose, difficulty naming objects or putting feelings into words, voice quality is different from other children, cannot recognize noises in the environment.
• Observe your child for signs of possible vision problems: squinting, sitting too close to the TV or holding a book too close, tilting the head to see better, frequently rubbing eyes when not sleepy, excessive tearing, sensitive to light, closing one eye to see better, avoiding activities which require near vision (coloring or reading) or distance vision (playing ball or tag), complaining of headache or tired eyes.
Remember, as a caregiver you will be the first one to notice subtle changes in behavior which could mean a problem. Check out your concerns with a health care provider, especially if vision and hearing problems are common in your family.
Contributions from Tutu and Me Traveling Preschool, a program of Partners in Development Foundation. Tutu and Me is funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education.