The idea of your child suffering from hearing loss is a scary thought. Most parents don’t expect to ever need to deal with this situation. However, according to the CDC, around 0.17% of infants and .5% of children age three to 17 suffer some form of hearing loss. Early intervention can lead to better outcomes. So, learning the signs of hearing loss in children is a good way to help your child.
Causes of Childhood Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can be a birth defect, or it can be caused by something that happens during your child’s life. In about half of cases, no specific cause can be found. Nonetheless, knowing possible causes can help you work with your child’s doctor to help your child. These are some of the most common causes of hearing loss:
- Birth defect from premature birth
- Family history of childhood hearing loss
- Ear infections
- Birth complications
- Use of ototoxic medications during pregnancy
- Newborn jaundice requiring a blood transfusion
- Meningitis or cytomegalovirus
- Otosclerosis or Meniere’s diseases
- Eardrum trauma
- Exposure to secondhand smoke
- Exposure to very loud noises
There are several other causes of hearing loss. Nonetheless, being aware of the risk factors and causes that may result in hearing loss can help you be more mindful of any symptoms your child may be exhibiting.
Signs of Hearing Loss in Children
Identifying that your child may be having difficulty with hearing is the first step in successful treatment. Many of them may seem obvious on paper but can be easy to overlook in the moment. Watch for the following signs:
- Saying “what?” or asking for things to be repeated often
- Seeming to hear clearly sometimes but not at other times
- Turning the television and other entertainment devices’ volumes up compared to other family members
- Favoring one ear to hear more clearly
- Talking about a “good ear”
- Teachers noticing difficulty following classes
- Appearing to be not paying attention
- Speaking louder than usual
- Intense concentration when listening
- Delayed speech and hearing milestones
Of course, many of these signs can be attributed to other behaviors. However, with hearing loss, it is better to be safe. If you notice any of these signs or simply have a feeling your child is struggling with hearing, it is best to seek help.
For infants, most hospitals perform a hearing test during the first 24 to 48 hours after birth. Additionally, your child’s doctor may perform hearing tests during annual checkups. These screenings are a good way to stay ahead of the problem. Nonetheless, they are only periodic. So, being mindful of the signs listed above is a good idea.
Obviously, many of these signs only apply to older children. For infants, watch for your child not being calmed or responsive to your voice. Infants typically smile or coo upon hearing a parent’s voice. Also, watch for your child ignoring loud or startling noises. While some babies are just restful and relaxes, sleeping through or ignoring loud noises may be a sign of hearing loss.
What To Do If You Notice Hearing Loss Signs
If you notice the signs of hearing loss listed above or are otherwise concerned that your child may be having difficulty with hearing, consult his or her doctor. Your pediatric doctor will be able to help with an initial evaluation to determine if your child appears to be suffering from hearing loss. If the test is positive, your child’s doctor will likely refer you to a specialist first treatment.
The specialist, called an audiologist, can help with more accurate testing. In infants, this may include watching for subtle behavioral cues of hearing certain sounds such as eye and head movements. Older children can respond with speech or gestures to indicate when they hear a sound.
Hearing Loss Treatments
Should your doctor and audiologist confirm your child’s hearing loss, there are a few treatment types available. These technologies have come a long way in recent years. So, children can experience a very normal quality of life even with hearing loss if it is properly treated.
The most common hearing loss treatment is with hearing aids. Modern hearing aids are very effective and can even isolate speech, replicating unaided hearing well. There are numerous low-profile options. Additionally, most hearing aids brands have models for children featuring fun and colorful designs.
Hearing implants are another option for treatment. Cochlear implants are a surgical implant that directly stimulates the auditory nerve. They are typically reserved for severe cases of hearing loss in which a hearing aid would not be effective. Bone-anchored hearing systems are another type of implant. These are effective for single-sided deafness or cases with significant outer or middle ear malformations.
In some cases, speech therapy may be recommended along with a hearing device. This can help to address any delays in speech caused by hearing loss. While the idea of your child experiencing hearing loss is scary, modern treatments are effective and continue to improve every year.