The inability to hear sounds totally or partially is called hearing loss or hearing impairment. Hearing impairment in adults occurs as they grow older which affects listening skills. However, when hearing impairment occurs in children they tend to face many other difficulties along with it. Some of the common difficulties faced by children with hearing impairment are difficulty in social interactions, inability to learn spoken language and many more.
Common Causes of Hearing Impairment in Children
Most often newborns are affected by hearing impairment due to genetic disorders. Some of the other reasons for hearing impairment in children are
Otitis Media – It is an infection that is caused in the middle ear. This happens when the Eustachian tubes are not fully formed. Eustachian tubes help in connecting the middle ear to the nose. This leads to fluid accumulation behind the eardrum which causes serious infection. If the condition is left untreated it could lead to permanent hearing loss.
Illness or Injury – Some diseases such as encephalitis, chickenpox, measles, flu, and meningitis in small children can lead to hearing impairment. In other cases, a serious head injury, sudden exposure to loud noise and medications could also cause hearing loss.
Accumulation of Ear Wax – When there is an excessive accumulation of earwax it obstructs the sound waves from reaching the inner ear. This way the sound signals do not reach the brain.
Some of the other reasons for hearing impairment in newborns are –
- Sepsis – It is a bloodstream infection.
- Babies on extended ventilator support.
- A severe jaundice infection, immediately after birth.
- Born with abnormal facial features.
- A birth from difficult delivery which constrains blood oxygen levels.
- Low birth weight
Warning Signs to Look Out For
Parents are the first ones to notice symptoms in children with hearing loss unless it is condition found during birth. Some of the common symptoms of hearing loss are –
- When your child does not react to your voice
- No reactions to loud noises.
- Constantly pulling or rubbing ears.
- Does not pay attention to nearby conversations or music.
- Being grumpy for no reason.
- The kid might not be energetic.
- Requests to increase volume on the TV or radio.
- Does not pay attention and often complains from ear pain.
- Experiencing a fever, consistently.
It is important to consult a doctor as soon as you observe these symptoms, especially if they occur frequently. Getting medical help at early stages can avoid major complications.
Early Diagnosis for Prevention and Care
Most often newborns go through a series of hearing tests before getting discharged from the hospital. Here are a few tests conducted on newborns to check their hearing ability.
Capturing Echo Waves – A small handheld device that produces a soft click sound is passed through the infant’s ears to capture echoes from healthy ears. This is also called as evoked otoacoustic emissions testing.
Auditory BrainStem Response (ABR) Test – This test is conducted only when doctors are unable to capture echoes from the infant’s ears. This test is performed to measure electrical signals from the brain while generating sound near the infant’s ear. This is a painless procedure often conducted on babies while asleep. These tests need to be conducted once a month to capture accurate results. Once hearing loss is confirmed further steps are taken to correct it.
Genetic Testing – Babies born with hearing loss due to a genetic disorder can be diagnosed through genetic testing.
Older Children with hearing impairment undergo many techniques to diagnose the issue which are
- Doctors usually ask several questions to find the severity of the problem and work on assessing parents to find the root cause. The question may include on a child’s normal activity developments, language and speech development, etc.
- A Scheduled Examination of ears is conducted to check for abnormalities.
- Tests are conducted to capture the child’s response to various frequencies of sound.
- The presence of fluid in the middle ear is diagnosed by passing a range of sound frequencies.
- Imaging tests such as MRI scans are done to diagnose the cause of hearing loss. MRI scans are done to capture clear images of internal organs with the help of magnets and radio waves.
- Many children above the age of 2 are tested with sounds produced by earphones to capture their response.
Treatment for Hearing Impairment
There are many ways to treat hearing impairment in children. Immediate medical help during early symptoms can resolve the problem quickly and efficiently. Some of the treatment methods are –
Fixing Hearing Aids – Hearing aids help children with mild or moderate hearing problems.
Cochlear Implants – It is a medical procedure done to correct the auditory nerve in the ears. This procedure is done on children with severe hearing loss which cannot be corrected with hearing aids.
Therapy and sign language – Children also need therapy because it will support language development, and this way they will learn sign language as well.