Dealing with full or partial hearing loss can be a stressful and overwhelming process for both children and parents. Most cases of pediatric hearing loss occur in families where the parents do not suffer from hearing impairment, which can make the process more difficult to navigate. Although many auditory problems are diagnosed at birth, the signs of loss of hearing can manifest at any time from child to child, and understanding the symptoms and getting an accurate diagnosis as soon as possible is the key to child hearing loss treatment.
The Effects of Hearing Impairment on Child Development
The human ear is an intricate and complex system that helps the brain to both process sounds and maintains our sense of balance and spatial orientation in relation to the objects and the world around us. In childhood, hearing plays a critical role in learning and development. Hearing problems can interfere with a child’s intellectual, social and emotional development, which can be especially frustrating and stressful for children who are too young to adequately express and communicate their symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms Your Child May Be Suffering from Full or Partial Hearing Loss
Failure to react to loud noises and trouble recognizing speech and following conversations are the most common signs of some degree of child hearing loss. Other symptoms to look out for include:
- Difficulty hearing above background noise
- Difficulty following conversations where more than one person is speaking at a time
- Difficulty interpreting or accurately processing speech/complaints people are mumbling
- Complaints about buzzing or ringing in one or both ears (tinnitus)
- Asking people to speak slowly or repeat themselves
- Difficulty with their own speech, making short simple sounds that taper off
Anatomy of the Ear and Different Types and Causes for Impaired Hearing
The ear is divided into three parts: the inner ear, the middle ear and the outer ear. Sound enters through the outer ear and passes through the external auditory canal to the eardrum (tympanic membrane). When sound reaches the eardrum, it causes vibrations which pass through the cochlea in the inner ear.
The cochlea transforms the vibrations it receives from the eardrum into the nerve signals that are sent to the brain to interpret sound. Congenital (present from birth) defects and injuries in the inner ear can impair a child’s hearing and development.
Many children are born with hearing defects. Other cases are the result of injuries, inflammation, and infections in the middle or inner ear.
What is the Difference Between Cochlear Implants and Hearing Aids?
Child cochlear implants are an alternative to hearing aids for children with advanced hearing impairment or complete child hearing loss. The hearing loss treatment works as a replacement for a damaged cochlea. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has approved the use of implants on children over the age of one. While standard hearing aids amplify sounds by making them louder, a child cochlear implant produces electrical signals that stimulate the auditory nerves to recreate sound for children suffering from near or total deafness.
Is Your Child a Good Candidate for a Cochlear Implant?
Parents should seek treatment for their child as soon as signs of auditory problems become evident. The otolaryngologists at Pediatric ENT Associates in Birmingham recommend getting the implant as soon as possible after the onset of child hearing loss, especially for children in the speech and language acquisition phase of development. Studies have shown significant improvements in speech, learning and hearing in children who receive a cochlear implant by the age of 18 months. However, children who lose hearing after they have started to speak can also benefit from the cochlear implant.
The general eligibility guidelines for pediatric cochlear implants are:
- Under the age of five
- Extensive hearing loss in both ears
- Limited/insignificant results from hearing aids
- In good general health and no medical problems that could interfere with or increase the risk of negative reactions and complications to surgery (CI is a surgical implant)
- Have the ability to learn how to communicate with a child cochlear implant
- Access to a support system and the ability to commit to extensive language coaching and speech therapy
The hearing specialists at Pediatric ENT Associates in Birmingham offer a number of diagnostic tests and evaluations to determine the extent of child hearing loss, and whether he or she is a good candidate for cochlear implants:
- Audiograph (test to determine the child’s response to a range of sounds)
- Physical exam of the outer, middle and inner ear to check for inflammation and infections
- CT or MRI scans to check for potential nerve and cochlear damage
- Evaluation to determine how well the child will respond to the implant
Find out more about child hearing loss at WebMD.
Pediatric Hearing Loss Treatment in Birmingham, AL
If your child is suffering from congenital loss of hearing or exhibiting newly developed signs of difficulty hearing in one or both ears, contact Pediatric ENT Associates by calling (205) 831-0101 to learn more about child hearing loss treatments and to schedule an appointment with an ear, nose, and throat doctor today.
Next, read Is a Cochlear Implant Right for My Child?