Professionals in Hearing Loss

The professionals who will play a part in the management of a child’s hearing loss should be thought of as members of the child’s team of experts.

Certainly, parents need these experts. But, as important as these team members will be, parents are the only ones who can be the team manager. It doesn’t really matter how much professionals know, parents should never let them become a replacement for their involvement with their own child’s education and development.

Parents will probably meet the members of the team in the following order:
  • a health professional (pediatrician, family doctor, or public health nurse),
  • an audiologist,
  • an otorhinolaryngologist (ENT doctor),
  • a service coordinator,
  • a speech and language pathologist,
  • a teacher of the deaf or hard of hearing, and/or
  • a regular classroom teacher.

The role of each member on the team will be described separately.

The health professional on whom parents depend for the general health care of parents child, is probably a pediatrician, who treats only children, or a family practice physician, who treats adults as well as children in the family. This professional will not be able to help parents with the hearing loss itself. However he/she may treat inflammations and infections of the ear and upper respiratory system that can affect hearing, as well as other conditions that children may encounter.

The audiologist must have a license in audiology, and be certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). He/She specializes in the study of hearing disorders. An audiologist identifies the hearing loss, measures it, and aids in the habilitation of the deaf and/or hard of hearing person, by recommending appropriate hearing aids. Most are also licensed to sell hearing aids.

An otorhinolaryngologist is a physician who specializes in diseases of the ear, nose, and throat. He/She may also be called an otologist or an ENT doctor. By federal regulation, he/she must examine a child to rule out any medical complications before parents purchase a hearing aid. An ENT should check every child periodically. Some of these doctors also dispense hearing aids.

The service coordinator is responsible for coordinating all services for the child and will serve as the person for parents to contact when seeking to obtain necessary services and assistance. The service coordinator is also required to assist parents in identifying and locating available services and service providers, and to inform parents (and families) of the availability of advocacy services.

A speech and language pathologist specializes in the diagnosis and habilitation of speech and language problems. This team member may meet with a child on a regular basis to work on the fine points of speech and language development and speech correction. He/She will explain how parents can help with the child’s speech and language development. Most states require the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) certifies licensing of these professionals.

The teacher of the deaf or hard of hearing should be certified by the State Department of Education to teach students who are deaf or hard of hearing. Parents should begin talking to these special teachers, from programs in their area, even if the child is only an infant. This person can help parents get started immediately with communication and language development, even if the hearing aids have not yet arrived. Most areas have programs for infants and toddlers and their parents. Teachers in these programs will become one of the most valuable members of the team, providing home visits and one-on-one early intervention for parents and children.