Ava McCaslin was diagnosed with mild to moderate hearing loss after she failed her routine newborn hearing screening. By 4 months, she was wearing two hearing aids and now at 16 months, she is referred to as the “chatter box” of the family.
Researchers at Boys Town National Research Hospital believe that early intervention and the use of hearing devices have helped Ava hear and learn spoken language patterns. She is developing in a manner similar to her toddler peers with normal hearing. This positive early start also will help her excel in academic and social environments.
“There is a tendency for people to underestimate the needs of children with mild or moderate hearing loss. Because they may speak clearly, subtle language and learning delays go unnoticed,” said Mary Pat Moeller, Ph.D, Director of the Center for Childhood Deafness at Boys Town National Research Hospital. “By studying the challenges faced by children who wear hearing aids, we can determine what programs and treatments will help them to succeed socially and academically in a hearing environment.”
Boys Town National Research Hospital, along with the University of Iowa and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, has recently been awarded a five-year, $8.9 million multi-center grant to study mild to severe hearing loss in young children. Researchers at the three sites are exploring the effects of educational programs and audiological services, such as hearing aids, on the outcomes of young children.
Leslie McCaslin, Ava’s mother, has already signed her daughter up for the new study. “One of the reasons we participate in the study is for our own benefit,” said Leslie. “We receive speech and language evaluations, hearing testing and consultations. Ava’s school is also receiving feedback on her progress and direction on how they can create a stronger learning environment for her.”
The hearing study will take place in the hospital’s infant development research laboratory. It is set up as a playroom environment so that parents and children can interact comfortably while being monitored through two-way glass by researchers.
“Even five years ago, children with hearing loss did not have the same advantages that children have now,” said Dr. Moeller. “With today’s advances in research and technology, children with hearing loss have similar opportunities for language development as children with normal hearing.”
Leslie encourages parents who have children with any degree of hearing loss to get involved and be an advocate for their child. She recommends scheduling appointments with your child’s teachers and coaches to make sure your child remains exposed to a learning environment without any limitations.
Boys Town National Research Hospital is recruiting child participants, ages 6 months – 6 years, who have permanent hearing loss. Studies will be conducted in Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and North Carolina. If you would like more information, please contact the hospital’s Center for Childhood Deafness at 402-452-5000.