Hearing Loss in Children: Everything You Need to KnowPublished On: July 15, 2019
3 out of every 1,000 children in the US have a detectable level of hearing loss.
As adults, we consider hearing to be an invaluable part of our lives. It’s one of the main senses that we rely on to survive. And for good reason, the ability to hear shapes every part of our lives.
But for children, the ability to hear is important for a wide variety of reasons. Without hearing, children struggle to learn to communicate, socialize, play, and even learn.
Hearing loss in children can be debilitating if doctors don’t catch it in time. But hearing loss, especially when it’s mild, is difficult to discover in children.
If you suspect your child may have hearing loss, you’re not alone. We’re going to demystify hearing loss in children and tell you what causes it, what it looks like, and what you can do when you find out that your child has hearing loss.
What Causes Hearing Loss in Children?
Hearing loss in children comes in many shapes and sizes. Some hearing loss is considered congenital, meaning it’s there at birth. And some hearing loss is considered acquired, meaning the child develops it after birth.
There’s also conductive hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss, and mixed hearing loss.
Hearing loss doesn’t have to be debilitating. If a parent, caretaker, physician, or teacher catch it early, the child can receive the kind of medical help that can seriously lessen the impact.
Congenital Hearing Loss
When a child is born with hearing issues, it’s considered congenital hearing loss. One of the most difficult aspects of congenital hearing loss is that it can be difficult for doctors to detect it. And if congenital hearing loss in children isn’t detected in time, it can be difficult to get the child the help they need.
However, just because a congenital hearing loss doesn’t necessarily have to be genetic. Complications at the child’s birth, like herpes and other viruses and infections, can be the culprit as well.
If a baby is premature and their birth weight is under three pounds, they are at a higher risk for congenital hearing loss as well.
Congenital hearing loss can also arise from disorders in the nervous system or brain functions.
Toxoplasmosis, herpes simplex, German measles, and diabetes in the mother can also cause the child to have hearing loss from birth.
These non-genetic factors only account for around a quarter of all cases of congenital hearing loss. Experts agree that most hearing loss is passed down from parent to child.
Acquired Hearing Loss
Another factor that contributes to hearing loss in children is acquired, meaning that it is a result of something that happened outside of the womb.
These causes are usually due to injury or illness and can include factors like:
- Punctured eardrum
- Progressive diseases like osteosclerosis
- Head injury
- Frequent ear infections
- Second-hand smoke exposure
These are just a few of the various issues that can arise during a child’s life that will cause acquired hearing loss.
There’s also something known as transient hearing loss, where it comes and goes. Transient hearing loss in children is usually caused by a middle ear infection or some other blockage of the eardrum.
Despite the lack of severity, transient hearing loss can also hinder a child’s speech and language development.
How to Screen a Child for Hearing Loss
It’s routine for hospitals to perform a hearing test on children at or soon after their birth. Then, after a few weeks, their pediatrician will perform another hearing test as well.
However, these tests aren’t concrete. It’s important that you pay attention to your child’s speech development in order to determine whether or not you should be concerned about hearing loss.
If your child isn’t meeting the standard milestone markers for children their age in terms of language or emotional development, you should contact your pediatrician as soon as possible. Your pediatrician can provide your child with a screening and get them the help they need.
Hearing Loss in Older Children
Young children aren’t the only ones who can develop transient or acquired hearing loss. If you notice your older child has a hard time picking up what people are saying or if their speech patterns are different than other people their age, they might have a hard time hearing.
Likewise, if you notice that your child has to sit close to the TV to hear, or if they have all of their devices turned all the way up just to understand it, talk to their doctor right away.
Treating Hearing Loss in Children
Every child’s hearing loss is different, so every treatment for hearing loss will be different as well. Two common hearing devices are hearing aids or cochlear implants. However, speech therapy and assistive listening devices could also benefit your child.
Hearing aids have advanced incredibly since their invention. They’re advanced and can help those with profound hearing loss and mild hearing loss alike. And if you can’t imagine your child keeping a hearing aid in their ear, you’re in luck.
There are many products out there that can cover their hearing aids to ensure that your child doesn’t pull them out or misplace them.
A cochlear implant is surgically implanted and work to send signals to your child’s inner ear via an electrical pulse. They’re recommended for children who don’t get any benefit from hearing aids.
Speech therapy is a common occurrence for both hearing and non-hearing children alike. It helps non-hearing children develop sounds that they didn’t pick up on before a medical professional diagnosed their hearing loss.
Assistive Listening Devices
Assistive listening devices are small radio-like transmitters that your child’s teacher wears in order to ensure that they can hear their instructions or lectures. They’re discreet and they connect directly to the hearing aid or cochlear implant that your child already live with.
Finding out that your child has hearing loss can be heartbreaking news. All you wanted for then was for them to have a fair shot at a good life, right? Well, the good news is that hearing loss in children isn’t uncommon and it doesn’t have to be an obstacle to a good life.
There are tons of resources out there for children who deal with hearing loss. There are support groups and entire communities devoted to helping children with hearing loss. Every day, science develops new and improved hearing aid technology.
If you’re in the market for a hearing aid for your child, read our reviews to ensure that they’re getting the best possible device for their needs!