Healthy hearing is crucial for your child's language skills to develop properly. Although not all babies and young children suffer from hearing problems, 1.7 per 1,000 babies screened for hearing loss have shown poor hearing.
That's why before a newborn baby is discharged from the hospital, he or she must get a hearing screening. This practice, named Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI), helps detect hearing issues as early as possible so they can be treated accordingly.
The more you learn about your child's hearing, the easier it will be for you to detect uncommon symptoms and seek medical help as soon as possible. Keep reading to learn more.
What are the causes of hearing loss in children?
Interestingly, newborns can have hearing problems even if their parents or family member's auditory range is fine. Older children can also develop hearing problems. A few common signs of hearing loss include:
Otitis media: this middle ear infection can develop from colds and respiratory infections.
Eardrum injuries: when ruptured due to trauma, pressure, or infections, the eardrum (also called the tympanic membrane) may cause pain and hearing loss. A perforated eardrum can heal on its own or require surgery.
Certain medications: ototoxic medications can cause hearing-related side effects.
Illness: it's not uncommon for children to lose their hearing after being infected with meningitis or encephalitis, for example.
Earwax: even though earwax is inoffensive, a buildup could lead to temporary hearing loss.
What are the symptoms?
Especially in babies and younger children, it can be hard to detect when something's wrong since they can't verbalize their feelings well. But there are ways you can tell if a child's hearing level is suboptimal or if there's an infection going on. Be on the lookout for the following signs:
- Your child doesn't respond to noises, even if they're loud.
- Your child doesn't seem to listen to your voice.
- Your child has a fever.
- Your child complains from ear pain (not necessarily by speaking, but by pulling, rubbing, or pointing to an ear).
If your child has any of the above symptoms, you should take them to a pediatrician, an ENT doctor (otolaryngologist) or an audiologist right away.
Types of hearing loss
Among the types of hearing loss are conductive hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss, and a mix between the two.
Sensorineural hearing loss happens when there's damage to the inner ear hair cells or the auditory nerve, and it's the most common type of permanent hearing loss.
Conductive hearing loss, on the other hand, isn't necessarily permanent. It happens when there's a fluid formation, earwax buildup, or eardrum rupture, for instance, all of which can be resolved with medicine, surgery, or an otolaryngologist's intervention.
In the case of mixed hearing loss, a great example would be a person who was born with a hearing problem but developed an infection at some point in life. In this case, the hearing becomes compromised both ways.
All patients should perform medical tests to define which type is causing them hearing problems.
Can hearing loss in children be cured?
If the case is an infection, an earwax obstruction, or a ruptured eardrum, the condition can be cured. When it comes to permanent hearing loss, some treatments will help your child hear. These include cochlear implants and hearing aids, depending on the specific case.
The best you can do is to take your child to their pediatrician. The doctor will most likely refer you to a good audiologist or otolaryngologist, who will perform hearing tests to check for any signs of hearing problems. If there are any issues in your child's speech development due to poor hearing, the pediatrician might also recommend speech therapy.
To avoid paying high prices for hearing tests and doctor visits in general, it's a smart idea to consider family health insurance plans that will cover your little one's medical expenses, as well as yours.