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  • Writer's pictureWidex Emirates Hearing Care

Hearing Loss in Children: All What You Need to Know

Updated: Feb 16, 2023

hearing loss in children
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Hearing loss can start at birth or develop gradually after birth. It is common among children and babies. When you baby or child doesn’t respond to sounds, has problems and difficulties talking, and is slow to start talking, the cause can be hearing loss or impairment.

If your doctor diagnosed your baby or child with hearing loss, don’t feel anxious or overwhelmed. There are many existing treatments and solutions.

Since hearing ability advances the child’s skills in language and speech, it is very important to treat your child’s hearing loss. Keeping it untreated can delay the child’s social, verbal and emotional development.

Research showed that treating hearing loss before the age of six months results in better speech and language than when treating it afterwards.

What is hearing loss?

Hearing loss takes place when any part of the ear stops functioning normally. We are talking here about any auditory nerve located in the inner, middle and outer ear. Kids might suffer from hearing loss, or hearing impairment, when there is a problem with one part or more of the ears or with the nerves sending sound signals from the ears to the brain.

In children, it can be congenital- present ay birth, or acquired- developed later in their childhood. Some children might have different levels of hearing loss:

– mild hearing loss: below 25-40dB

– moderate hearing loss: between 41-60 dB

– severe hearing loss: between 61-80 dB

– profound hearing loss: above 81dB

Signs and symptoms of Hearing Loss

The symptoms that might appear differ from child to child. There are certain speech and language milestones that babies and children should reach as they grow up. Any delay in these milestones is a sign of hearing loss or any developmental problem.

Signs in babies:

  • Do not turn to sounds after they are six months old

  • Do not get startled at loud sounds

  • Do not calm down when hearing a familiar voice

  • Do not recognize the voice of their parents by the age of 3 months

  • Do not say single words at the age of one

  • Do not wake up at loud noises

  • Do not notice toys that make sounds

  • Turn their heads when they see you and not when they hear their name

  • Hear certain sounds and not all

  • Do not listen with interest to songs, stories and rhymes

Signs in children:

  • Do not have clear speech- delayed speech compared to others their age

  • Talk very loudly

  • Have delay in their language skills, pronouncing words incorrectly

  • Complain from tinnitus ringing in the ear

  • Turn the volume of the TV too high or sit very close to it to hear

  • Do not follow directions

  • Have difficulty to understand what others are saying or to focus during a conversation

  • Do not respond when someone addresses them with their name

  • Have problems academically- learning difficulty

  • Become easily frustrated when hearing lot of background noises

  • Complain of earaches, ear pain or noises

  • Watch the speaker’s face very carefully in order to read their lips

  • Watch others to imitate their actions, whether at home or school

Screening and diagnosis

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Hearing assessment in babies and children depends on their age group.

Hearing screening is what helps us know when a child might be facing hearing loss. Hospitals usually perform it on infants in the first two days after birth. If the newborn shows any sign of hearing loss, they are usually scheduled for another screening couple of weeks later. Despite this, some newborns who pass the second screening might show signs of hearing loss as they grow older.

It is easy and not painful. Babies are usually sleeping while they are being screened. It should be done for them no more than 1 month after they’re born. Children should be tested regularly, at the ages of 4,5,6,8 and 10 years or whenever there is any indication or concern about their hearing, preferably before entering school.

There are many types of hearing tests. Some of them are:

  • Visual Reinforcement Audiometry (VRA)- Infant hearing testing:

The parent holds the child on their lap while sitting on a chair. The audiologist plays sounds or talks through speakers oriented to the right and left of the child. The child hears the sound and reacts. They stay engaged in the test as much as the audiologist requires to have a good indication of the child’s hearing ability.

  • Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR): While baby is sleeping, clicking sounds are sent through small earphones into their ears. This test measures the activity of the brain in response to these sounds.

  • Behavioral Audiometry: This test watches the behavior of the baby in response to specific sounds.

  • Play Audiometry: The child wears specific earphones. This test is made into a game where the child is asked to react using a toy- touching or moving a toy every time they hear a sound. This test is based on the cooperation of the child.

Causes of Hearing Loss in Children

Following are some risk factors that usually lead to hearing loss in children.

– Autosomal recessive hearing loss: neither parent has hearing loss, but each carries a recessive gene that they pass to the child.

– Autosomal dominant hearing loss: one parent carries a dominant gene and passes it to the child

– Genetic syndromes

  • Exposure to loud sounds and noises

  • Maternal infections during pregnancy

– Toxoplasmosis

– Rubella

– Herpes

– Syphilis

  • Premature birth

  • Staying in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)

  • Complications after birth

– Low birth weight

– Lack of oxygen

– Jaundice in newborns

– Meningitis

– Requirement of blood transfusion

  • Head trauma, brain disorder or nervous system disorder

  • Ototoxic medications

  • Maternal diabetes

  • Alcohol, smoking or drug abuse by the mother during pregnancy

  • Perforated eardrum

  • Ear wax accumulation in ear canals

  • Foreign objects stuck in the ear

  • Meniere’s disease

  • Allergy or cold causing fluids to build up in the ear

Hearing Loss Treatments for Children

There is no single treatment that is the only solution for hearing loss. Children with hearing loss should be checked by a whole team of specialists including audiologists, ear, nose and throat doctors (ENT), speech-language therapists, and education specialists. All of these recommend early intervention which help the children communicate with their parents and with their environment. There are many treatment plans that we can consider, most of which are different types of communication options for children and their families. Some of them are:
  • Medicine or surgery

  1. Antibiotics or antifungal creams

  2. Ear tubes placed surgically in the eardrum of the child to reduce ear infections and drain the fluid out of their middle ear

  3. Surgery to treat hearing loss affected by head trauma or malformed ear canals

  • Technology that improves communication

  1. Hearing aids: They make sound louder. They are electronic and rechargeable/nonchargeable devices that change and amplify sound. Babies having permanent hearing loss and getting hearing aids before 6 months have more chance of improving language development. The audiologist will have you and your child choose hearing aid that suits their needs.

  2. Cochlear implants: When hearing aids don’t work, cochlear implants might help children with hearing loss. These surgically placed devices trespass parts of the ear which aren’t functioning properly. They stimulate the nerve immediately and transmit electrical stimulation directly to the inner ear. Kids with cochlear implants are able to hear and speak well if they had proper training and therapy.

  3. Hearing habilitation: your child’s audiologist or doctor can work with them to find the most suitable way to communicate and listen.

§ Auditory-verbal therapy (AVT)

§ Speech therapy

§ Speech or lip reading

§ Learning American Sign Language (ASL)

Preventing Hearing Loss

Most children with hearing loss are born to parents who do not have any problem with hearing. What this means is that the parents don’t have all the information needed to cope with this problem or deal with this condition. Many questions arise such as:

– Will they make friends?

– Will they be able to finish their education?

– Will they find a job?

– Can they have a partner and live normally?

Such concerns are very normal. Once the parents have the full picture, they can help their children play, learn, and keep up with other kids and children their age. There are tips that parents can use to help cope with hearing loss in their children:

  • Making sure your child has all the regular vaccines

  • Avoiding loud noises in the house, such as loud toys, music or TV

  • Getting awareness and education- parents should be provided with all the resources needed to understand the situation of their children and know how to deal with it

  • Supporting their child, empowering them and making it easy for them by showing them all the love, assurance and patience they need

  • Engaging in support groups which help them understand what is going on and provide advice: sharing different experiences can help them ease their anxieties

Treating hearing loss is very critical in children and babies. The earlier it is detected, the better its effects are on their lives. Getting help early is the only way to improve the development of your child. If you are a parent and suspect any difficulty in your child’s hearing, don’t wait! Contact your child’s doctor immediately. Let him have a hearing test as soon as possible.

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