EVEN FIELDS — When a concerned family brings their child to the Cranberry Hearing and Balance Center, audiologist Lisa Chandonais’ first concern is the child’s retention or achievement of the best level of hearing possible.
Chandonais said the most common reason for her practice seeing a child are middle ear infections. She first examines the child’s ear through otoscopy of the ear, which is a painless procedure where a lighted scope is placed in the ear canal to see the middle ear.
Once she determines an ear infection is present, she uses tests to determine if any hearing loss is present, and if so, the type and severity.
“Once the tests are completed, I talk with the family about recommendations, which usually includes a follow-up with an ear, nose and throat doctor,” Chandonais said.
She also makes recommendations on any corrective interventions that may be required, such as hearing aids.
Chandonais often sees young patients after the middle ear infection has cleared up and the parents notice a difference in their child’s hearing.
Outside of ear infections, a definite danger to today’s youth is listening to loud music or other sounds through earphones.
“That can deliver a high sound pressure level to the ear,” Chandonais said.
She said listening to loud sounds through earphones over time can damage the hair cells in the cochlea, which is an inner ear organ that detects sound.
“It depends on the length of time listening to the music through the earphones and the volume,” Chandonais said. “Different durations of sound level over time can damage the hearing.”
She said once the damage is done to the hair cells, there is no way to repair them.
Chandonais said there are many ways to protect those hair cells in an effort to provide a life of quality hearing for a child.
The first step to take, Chandonais said, is for parents to talk to children about monitoring their listening behavior on various devices.
“Explain to them to keep the volume down to a comfortable level,” she said. She said another important lesson for children is that if they know they will be exposed to loud sounds, to cover their ears with their hands.
“It’s truly just about prevention and preparedness,” Chandonais said.
For older youths who will be routinely exposed to loudness in various activities, Chandonais said the Cranberry Hearing and Balance Center can custom fit them with earplugs that will block dangerous noise while allowing the wearer to hear.
Buying regular earplugs also provides a measure of protection of the hair cells as well, she said.