Hearing Loss in Children
Do you ever feel your children just aren’t listening to you? You’d be surprised how often I pull pebbles, jewelry or plastic pieces out of little ears. With teenagers, a lack of response may be more “selective hearing” than anything else. If a foreign object or “just ignoring my parents” isn’t the cause, you should follow your instincts and determine if something more serious is going on.
Communication disorders are among the most common conditions affecting children nationwide and early diagnosis of hearing loss is critical to the development of speech, language, cognitive and psychosocial abilities. A child’s language development rapidly expands in the first few years of life and healthy hearing is essential for putting sounds and words together. Furthermore, one in every four children born with serious hearing loss does not receive a diagnosis until age three or older. Helping families with not just diagnosis of hearing loss but the search for effective treatment is a mission for our ENT and audiology practice.
Signs of Hearing Loss in Children
Your child will be screened for healthy hearing as a newborn, but hearing loss can also occur later in childhood well after you’ve left the hospital. In these cases, parents, grandparents, and other caregivers, especially teachers, are often the first to notice that something may be wrong with a young child’s hearing. Symptoms include:
- Not reacting in any way to unexpected loud noises
- Not being awakened by loud noises
- Not turning his/her head in the direction of your voice
- Not being able to follow or understand directions
- Poor language development
- Speaking loudly or not using age-appropriate language skills
If your child exhibits any of these signs, an ENT should be consulted and an age appropriate hearing test should be performed.
What Happens If My Child Has Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss in children can be temporary or permanent. Our diagnostic testing and physical exam can rule out medical causes such as otitis media (ear infection), excessive earwax or congenital malformations of the ear canal and middle ear. There are a variety of medical and surgical options available to us to assist with problems of this nature.
If inner ear hearing loss is determined, hearing aids may be recommended to amplify the sound reaching your child’s ear. If hearing aids aren’t a solution, cochlear implantation can be an option once a child reaches one year of age . Unlike a hearing aid, a cochlear implant bypasses damaged parts of the auditory system and directly stimulates the hearing nerve, allowing the child to hear for the first time.
The impact of hearing health continues well into adulthood. Hearing loss later in life often leads to depression, anxiety, and stress when we can’t communicate effectively with others. Research studies even find a direct relation between hearing loss and dementia in older adults. Cutting edge technology today with digital Bluetooth and nearly invisible devices make solutions more effective than ever for all ages.
Our team at Eastern Shore ENT can provide the full spectrum of care close to home – from audiologic diagnostic testing to medical and surgical evaluations. Please do not hesitate to contact us for any of your hearing healthcare needs!
Brian Hixon, MD