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Hearing and child safety

July 13, 2011

Staff Report

According to a study performed by the Better Hearing Institute (BHI), there is a direct correlation between a caregiver’s ability to hear and the safety of the babysitting environment for the children.

“If your child’s babysitter is one of the 24 million people who need hearing instruments and don’t have them, there could be problems,” warns Donald R. Kleindl II, BC-HIS, ACA, MCAP, director of Professional Hearing & Audiology Clinics. “The risks of not hearing a smoke or carbon monoxide detector could be fatal. Not hearing weather warnings could expose them, and your children, to a flood, tornado or hurricane. Spending too much time speech reading while driving can cause a crash, as can failing to hear a siren.”

Kleindl II added: “Older children have been known to take advantage of an adult’s hearing loss and get ‘permission’ to do something the adult wouldn’t agree to if they understood what the child said. The emotional repercussions of untreated hearing loss, depression and anxiety, can also affect children.”

Kleindl cites one case involving a 66-year-old man who was aggravated that his wife brought him to the clinic for a hearing evaluation, and decided that he did not need the amplification the specialist recommended. Eighteen months later, while watching his 3-year-old grandson, the child opened the screen door of the living room and wandered down the street. A neighbor found and returned the child. “After reluctantly receiving his hearing aids, he realized how much he had put his own grandson in jeopardy,” Kleindl said.

Kleindl II said one of the biggest concerns about hearing loss and childcare is failing to hear smoke detectors. The vast majority of people with hearing loss have difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds, which is what smoke detectors emit. Studies have shown that young children do not respond to smoke detectors, needing to hear a familiar voice calling to them by name to wake up and leave the house.

“In general, the inability to hear well can pose real safety dangers to all of us,” Kleindl II said. “People who cannot hear well can be unsafe drivers, as they sometimes cannot hear emergency vehicles or may spend too much time with their eyes off the road in an attempt to communicate with a passenger. People who ride bicycles need to hear what’s coming up behind  them. And the caretaker must be forever vigilant to environmental cues of impending danger such as a home intruder or a child crying in another room.

“My advice for anyone who is concerned that a caregiver or family member can’t hear properly is to make an appointment with a hearing health professional for a hearing examination,” Kleindl II said. He also adds that modern hearing instruments can help most people hear better and provide a safer environment for themselves and others.

Professional Hearing and Audiology Clinics offers free hearing examinations for any adults who suspect they are experiencing a hearing loss. A complete hearing examination is a vital first step in assessing a patient’s hearing needs. Professional Hearing & Audiology Clinics may be contacted at (815) 964-3131, 1415 E. State St., Rockford.

From the July 13-19, 2011 issue

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