The WHEELS Program
Julie: Stony Point Surgery Center is sponsoring The Wheels Program, which I work with, where we are doing hearing screenings on preschool children. How does a parent recognize if their child might have hearing loss?
Dr. Shaia: Well, in Virginia, in the state of Virginia as well as in many other states, all children are screened for hearing loss at a very young age, usually typically while they are still in the hospital, and if they pass that screening there really isn’t anything else that the parents usually need to worry about until they see some signs. Some of the signs they may see is a child who doesn’t pay attention, a child who they have to reprimand a lot, or a child with a speech deficiency, and that is usually either picked up when they make it to grade school or if they have a good preschool that they are in, the teachers may start recognizing a speech impediment or a speech delay, I should say, and start asking them to refer them to someone who can at least test their hearing, or to a Wheels Program, which is a screening program for children. So I know the Wheels Program has helped out many children in the Richmond area. I have seen several in my office who have been screened and we have located some hearing loss or identified some hearing loss and we were able to make a difference in these children. The key is finding the hearing loss early. The earlier you find it, and the earlier the detection, the better chance you have of having a child at a normal speech pattern as well as a normal life.
Julie: Is there any hope as far as the treatment end to catching it early? Or is it just fixing the problem so they can continue to develop. You know what I mean, they are not missing things as they are going along?
Dr. Shaia: Well, once we identify it early, we can then instill hearing aids or place a child in hearing aids and we do that as young as four months of age, and again, if they have complete deafness, we would set them up for what we call a cochlear implant, which is a device that we place into the ear, right into the cochlear, which is the hearing organ of the inner ear, and with proper programming the children do quite well.