Pediatric Hearing Loss
Adults aren’t the only ones who suffer from hearing loss. An estimated 3 out of every 1000 babies are born with hearing loss, making it the most common birth defect in the U.S. Somewhat surprisingly, 92% of newborns with hearing loss come from parents with normal hearing.
When hearing loss occurs in newborns or young children, it can have especially serious consequences.
Children with hearing loss are at risk for speech and language developmental delays. Any pediatric hearing deficiency should be addressed as soon as possible.
Types of Hearing Loss in Children
Many children experience temporary hearing loss when they develop an ear infection. As long as the infection is treated promptly, there is usually no long-term side effect and normal hearing resumes quickly.
Like adults, children may suffer from two main types of hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss affects the outer or middle ear, and is usually treatable. Fluid in the ear, impacted earwax, injury or trauma and foreign objects in the ears can all cause this type of hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss, or nerve deafness, is the result of an abnormality in the inner ear or hearing nerve. It may be present at birth or develop soon after. Sensorineural hearing loss is often hereditary; it may also be caused by disease or deformity.
Early Treatment is Crucial
Because young children are in their formative learning years, any pediatric hearing loss must be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. If not, the child will suffer from delays in language and speech development. Older children often have trouble socializing, and grades may suffer.
Most states now have mandatory newborn hearing screenings in order to detect any hearing issues immediately. Older children with a suspected hearing loss will be referred to an audiologist for a complete hearing evaluation. Treatment depends on the cause and extent of the hearing loss, and might include antibiotics or ear tubes for fluid in the ears, removal of excess earwax, surgical removal of the tonsils and adenoids, and even hearing aids.
Signs to Look For
If your child is exhibiting any of the following signs, contact his or her pediatrician as soon as possible.
- Your child does not startle at loud noises
- Your child doesn’t respond to your voice
- Your child does not notice you until he/she sees you
- Your child’s speech is delayed or difficult to understand
- Your child only responds to certain sounds