Contrary to common belief, hearing loss isn’t only a problem for adults, but it can also occur in children of all ages. The impairment can affect many aspects of a child’s life including its ability to develop communication, language, and social skills.
In general, hearing loss in children can be present at birth or develop later in childhood. Typically, the impairment can affect either one or both ears and can range from mild to profound. Even with mild hearing loss, a child could still have difficulties speaking and developing language skills properly.
To gain a better understanding of hearing loss in children, here is our ultimate parent guide which elaborates on the main causes and symptoms of this sensory processing disorder, and how to diagnose and treat it.
Main Causes Of Hearing Loss In Children
Many things can lead to hearing impairment in children, including:
- Birth defects of the ears;
- Premature birth or if the child has stayed in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU);
- Ear infections;
- Prolonged exposure to loud sounds;
- Other infections like meningitis ;
- Medications that can lead to hearing loss.
Depending on the cause or origin, the impairment can be one of the three main types of hearing loss, which are conductive, sensorineural, or mixed. The degree of hearing loss can range from mild to profound and can also be described as unilateral or bilateral, pre-lingual or post-lingual, symmetrical or asymmetrical, progressive or sudden, and fluctuating or stable.
Common Signs And Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of hearing loss in children are different in all ages. For example, in infants and toddlers, the impairment can be noticed if the child doesn’t react to loud sounds or voices, cannot detect where the sound is coming from, has stopped experimenting with making sounds, or the ear is missing or it is malformed at birth.
In school-age children, the impairment can be noticed if the child doesn’t follow or understand simple commands, experiences communication breakdowns, is falling behind with speech and communication skills, cannot identify where the sounds are coming from, or is exhausted at the end of school from trying to understand speech.
Diagnosis Of Hearing Loss In Children
In general, most hospitals perform basic hearing screening tests as soon as a baby is born. Many doctors even recommend all newborns be tested for hearing impairment until the age of three months. This examination usually consists of two stages.
During the first one, the baby is tested for echoes made by a handheld device. If the baby shows any signs of hearing inability, a second test is done, commonly known as the auditory brainstem response test (ABR), to measure electrical signals from the brain in response to sounds. If the results of the ABR are abnormal, the test is done again in one month.
Other common tests that are done to diagnose hearing loss in children are behavioral observation audiometry, tests with an audiometer, and using online game app tests.
Treatment Of Hearing Loss In Children
When it comes to treating hearing loss in children, the general rule is the sooner the impairment is detected, the more successful the treatment will be if it starts at an early age. In fact, this is one of the major reasons why every newborn should undergo a hearing screening test before leaving the hospital.
In case hearing loss is detected later on in your child’s life, the possible treatments you can rely on to improve their hearing ability include the use of hearing aids, cochlear implants, and training in ASL and lip reading.
Prevention Of Hearing Loss In Children
As far as the prevention of hearing loss in children is concerned, there are some things you can do. For instance, having a healthy pregnancy is one of the best ways to prevent any type of hearing impairment in your baby.
Also, make sure your child gets all regular childhood vaccines as they can also reduce the risk of hearing impairment later on.
Moreover, remember to keep your child away from high noise levels and encourage them to not listen to music too loud when using their headphones.
Although hearing loss is common in adults, it can also occur in children of all ages. The impairment can have negative impacts on a child’s life, interfering with their communication, language, and social skills. In order to be able to treat this sensory processing disorder in infants and school-aged children, parents should be familiar with the main causes, symptoms, and treatment methods available, all of which are briefly explained in our post.