Hearing loss isn’t confined to older adults: children of all ages can experience a loss of hearing. Roughly three out of 1000 babies are born with hearing loss, and its prevalence is increasing in adolescents. Noise-induced hearing loss is largely responsible for this increase.
If you suspect your child is having difficulty hearing, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Delaying can have a strong effect on a child’s learning and development.
What Causes Hearing Loss in Children?
There are three main causes of hearing loss in children. Congenital factors contribute to children who are born with hearing problems because of genetic issues, prenatal problems, or premature birth.
Otitis media (ear infection) is a very common childhood ailment that occurs when fluid accumulates in the middle ear. This can cause difficulty hearing and, in severe cases, may lead to permanent hearing damage. Acquired hearing loss is triggered by illnesses, physical trauma, exposure to loud noises, and medications.
What Are the Symptoms?
How can you tell if your child might have a hearing loss? There are a number of signs that should prompt you to have your child’s hearing tested ASAP. These include:
- A delay in speech and language.
- Failure to respond to loud noises or your voice.
- Poor academic performance.
- Frequent ear infections.
- Disorders associated with hearing loss (i.e. Down syndrome or autism).
- Family history of hearing loss.
Treating Hearing Loss in Children
There are numerous options for treating hearing loss in children, depending upon the type and severity of their condition. Your child’s doctor may take a wait-and-see approach when it comes to otitis media; chronic cases may be treated with medications or ear tubes that are inserted surgically and allow fluid to drain from the ears.
Permanent hearing loss can be treated with hearing aids, cochlear implants, and other hearing devices that enable a child to communicate.
The earlier you act, the less chance of your child experiencing speech or learning difficulties as the result of a hearing impairment.
Pediatric Hearing Testing
When performing pediatric hearing tests, there are two main types of testing that can be used (either separately or together).
Otoacoustic Emissions (OAEs)
Otoacoustic emissions (OAEs) are sounds generated by vibrations of the hair cells in the cochlea of the inner ear. OAE testing uses a tiny probe fitted with a microphone and speaker to stimulate the cochlea and measure its response. Individuals with hearing within normal limits will produce emissions; when a hearing loss is significant, no sound will be produced.
This test helps determine whether there is a blockage in the ear canal, excess fluid in the middle ear or damage to the hair cells of the cochlea. OAE testing is often included in newborn hearing screening programs.