The majority of children who are born with or develop hearing loss are born to parents with normal hearing, so it means the family has a lot to learn about dealing with the issues of the condition. The most important thing is to get your child diagnosed and examined by a professional as soon as possible, so they receive the right treatment. Hearing is very important in childhood for the development of speech and language.

The Signs of Hearing Loss in Children

A child should visit the doctor for a check-up on their hearing if they:

  • Do not look or reply when you call them.
  • Are taking longer than average to speak.
  • Speak with a muffle or speech is unclear.
  • Talk loudly.
  • Cannot understand what you say, ask you to repeat yourself or have to intently watch your mouth to see what you are saying.
  • Respond inappropriately to what you say or watch what others do and copy as they haven’t heard you properly.
  • Turn up the volume loudly or sit closer to the television to listen.
  • Have difficulty with paying attention.
  • Do not get startled by sudden loud sounds.
  • Are unable to figure out where a sound is coming from.

Being aware of the main signs of hearing loss in children is important so the problem can be identified as early as possible.

Causes of Hearing Loss in Children

There are 3 main causes of hearing loss in children:

  • Otitis Media – Due to the fact that the middle ear is not fully formed, this ear infection happens frequently to young children. Even if there is no pain, there becomes a build-up of fluid behind the ear drum which can become infected and cause hearing loss which can be temporary or permanent.
  • Congenital – Hearing loss is one of the most common birth defects and can occur through the genetics of the child, from problems during pregnancy or a premature birth.
  • Illness or Injury – If a young child acquires an illness such as meningitis, measles, chickenpox or the flu they are at risk of losing their hearing. Side effects to certain medicines and head injuries can also cause hearing problems.

Evaluating and Treating Hearing Loss in Children

There is a popular myth that children cannot be accurately tested for their hearing until they are over 5 years old. This however is very much untrue, and the hearing of children can now be tested from when they are just a few hours old, and at any age. Identifying hearing loss in a child early is beneficial to their language, speech and cognitive development. Hearing loss does not necessarily mean deafness, there is a wide range of hearing losses from mild to severe and even if a child is responding to sounds, there can still be a less apparent problem with hearing.

There are many ways of testing the hearing of children, depending on their age and abilities. Visiting a doctor for a check-up and evaluation is vital for taking the first steps, and if a problem is found they can be referred to a specialist for treatment. Treatments will vary depending on the cause of the hearing loss. Some treatments are very simple such as removing wax with drops or a syringe, and treating an infection with antibiotics. More complicated treatments include surgery to correct the hearing bones, a perforated eardrum or to remove fluid build-up. If the hearing loss is permanent due to damage of the nerves in the inner ear, treatments available include hearing aids and cochlear implants.

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