Many children with hearing loss are surrounded by hearing-sighting parents or other family members who do not have hearing issues. Hearing loss can occur in infants due to:
Rubella and other maternal infections can occur during pregnancy.
- Low birth weight or severe jaundice
- Birth asphyxia is a condition that results in a lack of oxygen during labor.
- Pregnancy and drug use during pregnancy
Children can also develop hearing loss later in their development, such as at:
- Head and ear injuries
- Exposed to loud noises for a prolonged period
- Fluid accumulation in the middle ear is called Otitis media.
- Infectious diseases (eg. Meningitis, measles and chicken pox are all possible.
- Some medications (e.g. These medications are used to treat certain types of cancers and infections
- Sometimes it is impossible to determine the cause of hearing loss in childhood.
Types of hearing loss
There are three parts to an ear: the outer, middle, and inner. The inner ear connects with the brain via a hearing nerve.
Occlusion in the ear prevents sound from reaching the inner ears, causing hearing loss. Because the ear is complex, hearing loss may affect one or all of the inner ears. Sensorineural hearing impairment is caused by damage to the inner hearing, hearing nerve, or the hearing part. Mixed hearing loss refers to a combination of these two types of hearing loss. The following disabilities can result from hearing loss:
- Mild hearing loss: Can hear normal conversations in quiet environments but not in noisy surroundings.
- Moderate hearing loss: Can hear speech clearly when the speaker is near you
- A hearing aid is necessary to correct severe hearing loss.
- Profound hearing loss: almost completely or totally deaf
How can I tell if my child has a hearing loss?
The universal newborn hearing screening programs test for hearing loss in newborns. These programmes will see hospital staff visit you in the postnatal unit to perform these tests. Babies who fail to pass these tests will have more thorough confirmatory tests. Early intervention is crucial for babies who have been diagnosed with hearing loss. This will help to prevent delays in speech and language development. Even if a child has passed their hearing screening test at birth, hearing loss can still occur at later stages. Parents must be vigilant.
These are signs to watch out for:
- There are no appropriate responses to your voice.
- Loud noises like thunder or banging on the doors won’t wake the child.
- They don’t babble or coo, or make finishing noises.
- Concerning delays in milestones related to hearing, speech, and language development.
- Your baby should smile and turn their heads by 3 months.
- Your baby should love playing with loud toys by 6 months. They should also be able to repeat basic sounds.
- Your baby should start babbling between 6 and 12 months old.
- Your toddler should be able to understand simple instructions and form simple sentences between 15-18 months.
- These clinical signs may be present if your child has an ear infection that can cause hearing loss.
- Pulling on their ears or tugging at them both
- Seeming to be constantly tired and frustrated
- Energy deficiency
Hearing loss screening
It is crucial that you see your doctor immediately if your child suspects they have hearing loss. Their development is rapid in the first year of life. Even a few months delay in testing can have a major impact on their communication skills later in life.
A variety of tests will be performed by your doctor to evaluate your child’s hearing ability. An ear exam will check for any inflammation or excess wax. Screening tests for clinical conditions include assessing the ability to respond to different intensities of voices. In the clinic, you may also use tuning forks to test your responses. If necessary, the audiologist may need to perform detailed audiometric tests using earphones. Under sedation, objective hearing tests may be required for young children who have difficulty understanding and following instructions.
There are many treatment options
The cause and severity of hearing loss will determine the treatment plan. Treatments such as antibiotics may be necessary if the problem is caused by infection or fluid accumulation in the middle ear. Your doctor may need to soften hard ear wax using olive oil or wax softeners. You can flush the softened wax out with warm water, or use a vacuum suction to remove it.
- Your child might need to be seen by an ENT specialist if the problem is more complex.
- Surgery (eg. To drain the middle ear fluids, and to repair perforations in the eardrum.
- Hearing amplification devices. Children as young as two weeks old can have hearing aids fitted. Advanced technology is available to meet your child’s needs.
- Cochlear implants are surgically placed to stimulate the auditory nervous system, making it possible for even the most profoundly deaf to hear.
- Speech and language rehabilitation are often complementary to medical treatment in order to achieve optimal results.
- Certain types of hearing loss can be prevented, including noise-induced hearing loss.
- Excessive exposure to loud noise for long periods can cause damage to the inner ear. Leisure-noise-induced hearing loss is particularly relevant for young people. Young people are exposed to loud music through earphones and other activities more often than ever before. As a preventive measure, make sure your child is not listening to too loud music. Avoid activities that expose children to loud music for long periods of time and without proper ear protection.
- To prevent infection and illness that can lead to hearing loss, it is important to make sure your child has all the necessary vaccinations.
- Encourage communication by reading, talking, and playing with your child. If your child has a hearing loss, it is time to visit your doctor.