Hearing loss can hamper a child’s ability to develop speech, language and social skills. It’s crucial to ensure that children with hearing impairment are treated promptly, to lower the impact that hearing loss has on their education and social life. As per studies, treating hearing loss before a baby reaches 6 months of age results in better speech and language learning abilities than treating later.
What Is Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss is a categorised by loss of volume (measured in decibels) and loss of pitch, or frequency (measured in Hertz). Hearing loss can occur when any part of the ear is not functioning in the normal way, which includes the outer ear, middle ear, inner ear, hearing (acoustic) nerve and auditory system.
Generally, a child may be diagnosed with hearing loss if they cannot hear sounds below a certain volume, in either one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral). The minimal threshold of sound is around 15-20 decibels, which is the sound of leaves swirling or people murmuring.
Some of the known causes of hearing loss in children include:
Otitis media is a middle ear infection that develop in young children because the tubes that connect the middle ear to the nose called Eustachian tubes are not completely developed. Sometimes fluids build up behind the eardrum and can get infected. Serious cases of otitis media can lead to permanent hearing loss.
Some babies are born with hearing problems, due to heredity or child’s genes. A child can also develop hearing loss when pregnant women has other comorbid health conditions such as diabetes or preeclampsia. In addition, premature babies are also at high risk.
Kids infected with meningitis, encephalitis, measles, chickenpox and the flu can also lose their hearing. Sometimes head injury, high pitched noises and certain medications can also cause hearing loss.
Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of hearing loss differ for each child, if you suspect that your child may have a hearing impairment, then seek immediate medical attention. It is important to look out for below signs, even if a child has cleared a hearing test before which includes:
Signs In Babies
Does not startle at loud noises
Does not respond to the sound eve after 6 months of age
Does not respond to your voice
Partially seems to hear some sound but not all
Signs in Children
Speech is delayed
Speech is not clear
Does not follow commands
Turns up the TV volume intensely high
Be cranky for no clear reason
Does not answer when you call his or her name
Complains of ear pain or earaches
Delayed milestones achievement as per the age
Diagnosis And Treatment
Hearing tests help to diagnose if a child has any hearing loss issues. It is a simple and easy to perform test and not painful. Generally, babies are screened while sleeping and it takes a short time.
All newborns should have a hearing test done not later than 1 month of age. In most cases, babies have their hearing screened while in the hospital. If a baby does not pass a hearing tests, it is essential to get a complete hearing test within 3 months of age.
Children should have their hearing tested before they join the school or during any time when there is an issue with the child’s hearing.
Treatment depends on the nature and severity of hearing loss in your child which includes hearing aids, cochlear implants and speech therapy or assistive listening devices are the suggested modes of treatment. A paediatric audiologist will diagnose if the child has wax deposited, or an ear infection or any other issue that may be causing a temporary hearing loss. For further treatment, an audiologist may refer to an otolaryngologist (ENT specialist) to correct any obstruction causing temporary hearing loss.
Hearing aids are a kind of device that help children with hearing loss hear clearly again. There are several types of paediatric hearing aids such as high-powered aids for children with profound hearing loss which deliver superior quality assistance.
Cochlear implants are surgically implanted gadgets that directly stimulate the auditory nerve in the inner ear with electrical stimulation. This device supports infants and children who cannot benefits from hearing aid.
Bone-Anchored Hearing Systems
This hearing system benefits people who have severe outer or middle ear disorders such as microtia and atresia and those with unilateral deafness.