Hearing loss at any age is an emotional issue. It robs you of a sense that adds so much to the richness of life. This loss is especially heartbreaking in children. Not only does it impact the sound experience of a life yet to be lived to the fullest, but it also creates a barrier to a child's number one job, learning. Fortunately, many causes of hearing loss are treatable, and it is often possible to return the sounds of childhood to a young life. Read on to learn more.
Categories of Hearing Loss
As with adults, hearing loss in children is measured in degrees. The loss can range from mild, one that causes difficulty hearing hushed tones such as a whisper to moderately severe, where the child can still hear loud speech, to a total loss resulting in deafness.
Hearing loss in children typically falls into two main categories. The most common, a conductive hearing loss, is associated with conditions in the external or middle ear that block the transmission of sound. These conditions can include ear infection, fluid in the ear, impacted earwax, a perforated eardrum, a foreign object in the canal or birth defects that alter the canal. Many of these conditions are treatable through minor procedures or surgery.
Sensorineural loss, also known as "nerve deafness", is the second type. This occurs when there is damage to the inner ear or nerve pathways from the inner to the brain. Most often, this type of loss is caused by congenital. It can also be caused by the use of ototoxic drugs (antibiotics), premature birth with a very low birth weight and some of the resulting treatments or a number of other medical conditions. Although there is no cure for this type of loss in most cases, children can often be helped with hearing aids.
Signs to look for possible hearing issues in children of different ages are:
Newborn / infant:
- Not startling at loud noises
- Not showing normal speech development
Toddler and older:
- Sitting close to the television with the sound turned up to a loud volume
- Having difficulty in school
- Not responding to someone that is talking without being face to face
- Stating they are having difficulty hearing
If you believe your child is experiencing a hearing loss, consult with the child's pediatrician or Dr. Williams at the earliest possible date. Timely testing, diagnosis and treatment provide the best course of action to ensuring the highest quality lifetime hearing experience for your child.