Hearing Loss In Children - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatments

Hearing Loss

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Toddlers and young kids are notorious for their stubborn ways. There are times when your child gives you the silent treatment. But is she ignoring you or is she having trouble hearing?

Hearing loss is not something we think of when our children refuse to listen to us. But maybe you should consider it. Hearing problems are more common than you think.

What Causes Hearing Loss In Children?

Every day, 33 babies are born with permanent hearing loss in the US(1). That’s around 12000 babies a year! While some children are born with hearing deficiency, others develop hearing problems as they grow. Some of the major causes for hearing loss include:

1. Infections:

Ear infections are common among children. These infections affect the middle ear and can lead to temporary hearing loss. In the case of chronic infection, a child can even end up with permanent hearing loss.

[ Read: How To Help A Child With Auditory Processing Disorder ]

2. Birth Complications:

A large number of chi

ldren are born with hearing loss and other related problems. Some birth complications can raise the chances of hearing loss. If a woman develops diabetes or toxemia during pregnancy, the chances of hearing problems in the new baby go up. Premature babies are also more likely to suffer from hearing problems.

3. Genetics:

If you or someone in your family has hearing problems, chances are high that your child too may suffer from the same issues.

4. Injury Or Illness:

Health conditions such as meningitis, encephalitis, measles, chickenpox, and the flu can cause hearing loss in children. Other causes can include head injuries, very loud noises, and certain medications.

Signs And Symptoms of Hearing Loss In Children:

The most important thing about hearing loss is to catch the problem early. Many mild hearing problems in children become hearing loss if left untreated. Watch out for the following symptoms to get an early diagnosis:

  • Child not responding to loud noises
  • Unresponsive to your voice
  • Unable to understand directions
  • Requests to raise the volume of TV

If the hearing problem is because of an ear infection, your child may also show these additional symptoms:

  • Excessive pulling of an ear
  • Fever
  • Ear pain
  • Fussiness

These symptoms are red flags and warrant a trip to the doctor. If left undiagnosed and untreated, mild hearing problems can lead to permanent hearing loss. Losing the capability to hear can cause long-term effects on your child. Many studies show that nearly 40% of children with hearing loss also suffer from some form of developmental disabilities (2). This includes intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, or autism.

[ Read: Perforated Eardrum In Children ]

Diagnosing Hearing Loss:

If a clinical test indicates hearing problems, your doctor may prescribe a hearing test. Most hospitals today conduct a hearing test on newborns. So, if you are a new mother, ask if your hospital has tested your infant for hearing problems.

Once your doctor has confirmed hearing problems in your child, it will be time for remedial measures.

Treatment Options For Hearing Loss In Children:

If your child’s hearing problems stem from an ear infection, the treatment plan will include:

1. Wait And Watch:

Most ear infections heal without treatment. So, all you’ll need to do is keep an eye on your child for any warning sign.

2. Medication:

If you pediatrician deems fit, he may prescribe antibiotics to treat your child’s ear infection.

[ Read: Ototoxicity In Children ]

3. Ear Tubes:

If nothing seems to work, your doctor may suggest ear tubes. These devices allow fluid to drain from the ears and prevent ear infections. But your child will need a minor surgical procedure to get her ear tubes.

If the cause for hearing problems and loss is more serious than an ear infection, your child may require:

4. Hearing Aids:

If an infant is born with hearing loss, she can start using a hearing aid at the age of one month. Older children too can use a hearing aid as soon as they get a diagnosis. Talk to your doctor if you think your child needs one.

5. Implants:

If your child has severe hearing loss and hearing aids are just not working, you may look into cochlear implants. These electronic devices have helped many – children and adults- around the world.

6. Gene Therapy:

This is a treatment plan that is still to get approval. Clinical trials are underway to determine the safety of infusing autologous human umbilical cord blood in children with acquired hearing loss(3). If this works, children with hearing problems may even be ‘cured’.

[ Read: Bacterial Infection In Children ]

Nothing is permanent, not even hearing loss. If you are proactive, even permanent hearing loss can be reversed. Just watch out for symptoms and try to get an early diagnosis.

We all want our children to be perfect. But who is to say that children with hearing loss are anything less than perfect? What they lack, they make up in spunk and personality. So, embrace your child’s individuality and allow her to blossom!

Do you have a child with hearing loss? What are the symptoms? Tell us in the comments section below.

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