Hearing loss in children

November 12, 2012

Hearing loss in children

Hearing loss in children can be noticed from a young age and is evident especially by slowness in learning and speech.

From the moment they are born children learn to communicate by imitating the sounds around them, hearing and speech are both essential for babies and children who are learning, playing and developing. An un-noticed and un-treated hearing loss in children means that they may miss out on many of the learning opportunities happening all around them all the time – this may then have a knock on effect and delay development in other areas such as academia and social skills.

The earlier the better

Varying degrees of hearing loss in children will probably affect around 2% of under 18s and nowadays there are very few hearing losses that cannot be improved with the introduction of technology. The most important step is noticing and treating the hearing loss as early as possible – obviously this is not always the case. A child with hearing loss can have his or her hearing maximized when an early diagnosis is made; early fitting of hearing aids and an early start on special educational programs will also be of great benefit. These steps will provide any child with hearing loss the best chance for developing both speech and language.

Two types of hearing loss

There are two types of hearing loss in children, congenital hearing loss (i.e. Present at birth) and acquired hearing loss.

Congenital hearing loss may be caused by a number of factors:

  • Infection during pregnancy

  • Use of ototoxic medication during pregnancy

  • Birth complications

  • Brain or nervous system disorder

  • Genetic disorder

  • Family history

Acquired hearing loss in children may be the result of:

  • Untreated ear infections

  • Perforated ear drum

  • Infections such as meningitis, mumps, measles, whooping cough

  • Excessive noise

  • Disease

  • Serious head injury

Many children also suffer temporary hearing loss as a result of infections or a build-up of earwax, this type of hearing loss in children is usually corrected with medical treatment or minor surgery.

Screening

Most hospitals routinely carry out hearing tests on newborn babies in order to ensure that, if necessary, intervention in the case of any apparent hearing loss can be as early as possible.

Checklist

Since the important period for a child’s development of speech and language is from birth to around 4 years of age it is generally the parents who may feel their child has some hearing loss. All children can be given a hearing test – no matter how young, if you think your child may have a problem then you should seek the advice of your medical practitioner as soon as possible. Your doctor’s surgery will probably have a list of age appropriate behaviors which may give an indication of any problem in your child’s hearing.

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