Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) might include divorce, loss of a parent, emotional neglect, physical neglect, parental abandonment, and verbal abuse. ACEs affect the developing brain and predispose a child to numerous diseases often decades after the traumatic experience. Among others, ACEs may share a link with risky health behaviors, chronic health conditions, low life potential, and early death. New research is casting light on the importance of attachment between infants and their caregivers and how ACEs may ultimately put a baby at risk for deficiencies in developmental and social-emotional functioning. A better understanding of the impact of ACEs upon children with hearing loss is emerging.
ACE research is providing a new understanding of how adversity impacts children with hearing loss with key takeaways geared toward improving outcomes for children with hearing loss. The latest study uses the ACE questionnaire, which covers household dysfunction, abuse, and neglect. The number of categories is considerable, suggesting that this population’s risk for physical and mental challenges in adulthood is high.
ACEs frequently occur within all socioeconomic groups. Sixty-seven percent of the study participants acknowledge experiencing the effects of one or more types of ACEs. Among that group, twenty-five percent note three or more, and five percent claim six or more. ACEs cluster, so when there is one, there tend to be others.
ACEs share a relationship with many health problems. After following the study participants over time, the researchers are noting a connection between a participant’s cumulative ACE score and health, social, and behavioral problems. The problems occur throughout the lifespan and tend to be comorbid. ACE scores higher than four are the tipping point for predicting future issues.
Childhood experiences shape the size and function of the brain. The stress of childhood trauma releases hormones that can physically harm the developing brain of a child. The hormones that accumulate when a child is in danger turn toxic when they are on for an extended period. Frequent and prolonged ACEs impede the development of executive functions on through the adolescent and teen years of a child’s life.
Parents of children with hearing loss have great potential for reducing the ACE scores and changing the direction of their child’s health trajectory. A specialist in ACEs can speak with parents regarding their ACE histories and how the past may be affecting their lives and parenting skills. The first step to healing is knowing your ACE score and not be ashamed to discuss it. Clinicians must listen and engage with patients and their families.
If your child has a hearing loss and you have concerns about ACEs, please schedule an appointment with a clinical social worker who has experience with ACEs. If you are a hearing healthcare professional, gain training in ACEs and cultivate relationships with other professionals to enhance outcomes for children with hearing loss. As an understanding of ACEs increases, hearing health for children with trauma in their lives will benefit.