Causes Of Hearing Loss In Children
Hearing loss can occur at any age, however, hearing loss from birth or that develops during infancy and the toddler years can have serious consequences.
Normal hearing is essential to understand and learn spoken language and to learn how to produce clear speech. However, if a child experiences hearing loss during infancy and early childhood, treatment is critical to ensure language development. Even a temporary hearing loss during the infant stages can result in delayed language development for a child.
Most children experience mild hearing loss when fluid accumulates in the middle ear from allergies or colds. This hearing loss is usually only temporary (conductive in nature). The normal hearing resumes once the symptoms subside and fluid drains out of the middle ear. For 1 in 10 children, the fluid may stay in the middle ear after the infection clears up. These children don’t hear as well as they should, and sometimes have delays in speech.
There are two main types of hearing loss in children:
Conductive Hearing Loss
When a child has a conductive hearing loss, there may be an abnormality in the structure of the outer ear canal or middle ear, or there may be fluid in the middle ear that interferes with the transfer of sound.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss (cochlear hearing loss)
This type of hearing impairment is caused by an abnormality of the inner ear or the nerves that carry sound messages from the inner ear to the brain. The loss can be present at birth or occur shortly thereafter. If there is a family history of deafness, the cause is likely to be inherited (genetic). If the mother had rubella (German measles), cytomegalovirus (CMV), or another infectious illness that affects hearing during pregnancy, the fetus could have been infected and may lose hearing as a result. The problem also may be due to a malformation of the inner ear. Most often the cause of severe sensorineural hearing loss is inherited. In most cases of pediatric hearing loss, there is no family history of hearing loss on either side of the family.
Hearing loss must be diagnosed as soon as possible so children do not have a delay in learning a language.
If your child is under age two or is uncooperative during her hearing examination, she may be given one of two available screening tests, which are the same tests used for newborn screening. These tests are painless and can be performed while your child is sleeping or lying still. These tests include:
The Otoacoustic Emission Test measures sound waves produced in the inner ear. A tiny probe is placed just inside the child’s ear canal, which then measures the response when clicks or tones are played into the ear. If these tests indicate that your child may have a hearing problem, you should have a more thorough hearing evaluation done as soon as possible to confirm whether your child’s hearing is impaired.
The ABR (Auditory Brainstem Response) which measures how the brain responds to sound. Clicks or tones are played into the baby’s ears through soft earphones, and electrodes placed on the baby’s head to measure the brain’s response. This allows the doctor to test your child’s hearing without having to rely on her cooperation.
When To Call An Audiologist
Here are the signs and symptoms that should make you suspect that your child has a hearing loss and alert you to call your pediatrician or an audiologist:
- Your child doesn’t startle at loud noises by one month or turn to the source of a sound by three to four months of age.
- Your child doesn’t notice you until he sees you
- Your child concentrates on gargling and other vibrating noises that he can feel, rather than experimenting with a wide variety of vowel sounds and consonants
- Your child’s speech is delayed or hard to understand, or he doesn’t say single words such as “dada” or “mama” by twelve to fifteen months of age
- Your child doesn’t always respond when called
- Your child seems to hear some sounds but not others. (Some hearing loss affects only high-pitched sounds; some children have hearing loss in only one ear.)
If you believe your child has a hearing loss, please come to our office in Peoria, Mesa, Scottsdale or Surprise to meet with one of our audiologists. Timely diagnosis and treatment will provide the best possible outcome for your child.
Contact one of our offices today to book your appointment