According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, approximately three to four babies out of every 1,000 are born with some degree of hearing loss. Even more children develop hearing loss during their first few months or years of life because of exposure to excessive noise, untreated ear infections, and other causes. If not addressed, hearing loss in children can lead to significant delays in communication and language development as well as social skills.
Types of Hearing Loss in Children
There are three primary types of pediatric hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss involves problems with the outer or middle ear, including the ear canal, tympanic membrane, or the small bones of the middle ear. Conductive hearing loss can be caused by everything from malformation of the ear structures to perforated eardrums and impacted wax. Sensorineural hearing loss affects the inner ear and occurs when the nerves of the inner ear are damaged or fail to function properly. The third type of hearing loss involves a combination of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.
Hearing Screening Recommendations
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations state that all babies should be screened for hearing loss before leaving the hospital or at least by one month of age. Babies who do not pass the initial screening should see a specialist for a full hearing test by the time that they are three months old. Symptoms of hearing loss in an infant include:
- not awakening or startling to loud noises
- not turning to a familiar voice
- not babbling or imitating sounds
Symptoms of Hearing Loss in Toddlers and School-Aged Children
While many school districts perform annual hearing screenings for targeted grades or students referred by teachers or parents concerned about possible hearing loss, parents are typically the first the notice a child’s hearing problem. Common symptoms include:
- not responding appropriately to questions or when called,
- falling behind in school,
- complaining of ear pain or ringing in the ears,
- consistently speaking too loudly or differently than children of a similar age.
Treating Pediatric Hearing Loss
Early intervention is essential with any type of pediatric hearing loss. The longer the problem goes unaddressed, the more likely the child is to experience various developmental delays. Treatment options vary based on the cause, type, and degree of hearing loss. Medications and ear tubes may be used to treat temporary hearing loss caused by recurrent ear infections. Hearing aids, cochlear implants, and surgery may be used to restore full or partial hearing in children with certain types of permanent hearing loss. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act also entitles children with hearing deficits to specialized services through their school.
If you suspect that your child may have hearing loss, you should schedule a consultation with a hearing specialist as soon as possible. At Commonwealth ENT Associates, we offer a full range of hearing screenings for children of all ages and can recommend the appropriate treatment. Contact us today to schedule your child for an appointment.