Infection: A Problem For Kids And Caregivers
Middle-ear infection is the most common medical problem for
preschool children. Often, the caregiver is the first person to notice the
subtle signs of hearing loss that may indicate a middle-ear infection. You
may notice that the child is not following verbal directions. Or, the
child may pay too much attention to visual clues. Notice, too, if the
child begins talking louder, responds inappropriately to sounds, or is
irritable. Also, when a child is not developing speech at a normal rate,
hearing loss can be the cause. These are all clues that the Eustachian
tube is not functioning properly and that there is fluid instead of air in
the middle ear.
Sometimes ear infections last only a week or two. At other times, they
last for many weeks and become chronic. Children with allergies may
develop a fluctuating loss, sometimes hearing and sometimes not. These
children often become frustrated and may show behavior problems. Whenever
you suspect that a child may have a hearing problem, notify the parents so
they can take the child to a doctor. Carefully kept observation notes help
both parents and the physician. Prompt medical attention is important.
To learn to speak, a child must first hear. Hearing is vital to language
development. Acquiring language is one of the most important tasks of the
preschool child. Even a slight loss of hearing will affect language
development. Although middle-ear infection is only one possible cause of
hearing loss, it accounts for more than 90 percent of hearing problems in
children under the age of six.
If you suspect that a child is not hearing well, here are some guidelines
1. Use the child's name to gain attention before talking to the child.
2. Keep within three feet of the child when you speak.
3. Maintain eye contact by being at the child's eye level.
4. Don't talk to the child's back; you may not be heard.
5. When it is noisy, expect the child to have more trouble hearing you and
give the child extra cues.
6. Keep light on the speakers face and not shining into the child's eyes.
7. Be certain the parent knows that you are concerned. Ask the parent to
seek a medical opinion.
Caregivers are extremely important in young children's language
development. Be alert to possible hearing losses!
Reprinted with permission from the National Network for
Child Care - NNCC. Smith, R. (1992). Ear infection: A problem for kids and
caregivers. In Todd, C.M. (Ed.), *Day care center connections*, 1(4), pp.
6p;7. Urbana-Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Cooperative Extension