Older adults aren’t the only ones who experience hearing loss: children of all ages can experience a loss of hearing. Roughly three out of 1,000 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 has difficulty hearing, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Delaying treatment can have a substantial effect on a child’s learning and development.
What Causes Hearing Loss in Children?
Leading causes of hearing loss in children include: otitis media, congenital factors, and acquired hearing loss. Otitis Media, or middle ear infections, are common and occur when fluid accumulates in the middle ear. Conductive hearing loss occurring with ear infections is typically treatable, but can lead to more significant long term damage if left unmanaged. Congenital hearing loss is typically present at birth. Examples can include hereditary hearing loss or hearing loss due to other factors present either in utero (prenatal) or at the time of birth. Acquired hearing loss is usually identified after birth, at any time in one’s life, perhaps as a result of a disease, a condition or an injury. Examples of conditions that can cause acquired hearing loss in children include: Meningitis, Measles, head injury, and noise exposure.
What are the Symptoms?
How can you tell if your newborn or child might have a hearing loss? Several signs should prompt you to have your child’s hearing tested. These include:
- Failure to startle when exposed to a sudden, loud noise
- A delay in Speech and Language
- Failure to respond to loud noises or your voice
- Poor academic performance
- Frequent ear infections
- Family History of hearing loss
Why is Early Detection So Important?
Nearly three out of every 1000 babies are born with some form of hearing loss. Between birth and age five, the incidence of hearing loss doubles. Even though a newborn passed their hearing screening at birth, it is not a guarantee that a late onset and/or progressive hearing loss won’t develop. Identifying hearing loss at an early age is crucial because children with hearing loss often fall behind their peers in speech and language development, academics, cognitive skills, and social skills. Untreated hearing loss can lead to adult issues such as reduced socio-economic status, poor socialization skills, depression, etc. The earlier we can identify hearing loss the sooner we can begin to treat the problem and have better outcomes for that individual.
Newborn Hearing Screening Programs
Your baby’s first hearing screening will likely occur in the hospital within a few hours or days after birth. Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) guidelines recommend hearing screening completion by 1 month of age, diagnosis of any hearing loss by 3 months of age, hearing aid selection and fitting within 1 month of confirmation of hearing loss if parents choose that option, and entry into early intervention (EI) services by 6 months of age.
Two Common Hearing Tests Used for Newborns
The first is called an Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) test, which measures a baby’s hearing nerve response using electrodes. The second is the Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) test, which uses a microphone and earphone to calculate an infant’s hearing ability by measuring the reflection of a sound’s echo as it passes through the ear canal. These tests help identify a potential problem as early as possible, promoting the prevention of developmental disorders.
What the Results Mean
Don’t be alarmed if your newborn doesn’t pass their hearing test as some babies with normal hearing don’t pass this first screening. There are several reasons why this may occur:
- The test was given in a noisy room.
- The earphones or probes didn’t fit into your baby’s ears well.
- Your baby moved around too much during the test.
- There was vernix (debris) in the ear canal or middle ear fluid in your baby’s ears when they were tested.
If your baby does not pass their initial screening in the hospital, a repeat test should be performed by an Audiologist by one month of age. The majority of infants will pass the second screening quite easily. Diagnostic hearing testing from your pediatric audiologist will investigate further for those who do not pass the second newborn screening.
Importance of Treatment and Continued Hearing Follow-Up
There are numerous options for treating hearing loss in children, depending on the type and severity of their condition. Examples of treatment for otitis media or other middle ear problems may include medications or ear tubes. Hearing aids, cochlear implants and other devices that enable a child to communicate can help treat permanent hearing loss. Acting sooner lessens the chance of your child experiencing speech or learning difficulties that result from a hearing loss.
Even without risk factors, hearing loss can occur at any point in life. This is why continued testing is vital for early identification and management. Talk to your audiologist about your child’s medical and family history to determine how frequently their hearing should be evaluated. Hearing loss does not have to be severe in order to impact a child’s development. Academic impacts can occur as a result of unilateral, bilateral, minimal degree, high frequency, or long-standing conductive hearing loss.
Call Premier Medical Group for more information or to schedule an appointment.