Congenital hearing loss in children refers to hearing loss that occurs in utero (during pregnancy) or at birth. Congenital hearing loss may be caused by a genetic defect, such as one or more parents carrying a hearing loss gene; a disorder such as Down syndrome, Usher syndrome or Alport syndrome; an infection or disease in utero, such as maternal diabetes or premature birth; or by a loss of oxygen during the child’s delivery. If you suspect your child may have issues with his or her hearing in Birmingham, contact a pediatric specialist as soon as possible.
Even when your child is born with perfect hearing in Birmingham, Alabama, a disease or certain types of trauma can increase their risk for subsequent non-congenital hearing loss, such as:
- Otitis media (inflammation of the middle ear)
- Diseases such as measles, influenza, mumps, meningitis and chickenpox
- Trauma to the ear
- Head trauma
- Loud noises
Arming yourself with the facts about the conditions and situations that cause non-congenital hearing loss can help you keep your child’s ears healthy and protect their hearing over the long term. Regular visits to a pediatric ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist for a hearing check is essential to identify early signs of impairment. Untreated hearing loss can lead to delays in speech and other developmental issues. If hearing loss is identified, your ENT specialist can refer your child to an audiologist and speech therapist when necessary.
Preventing Otitis Media
Otitis media refers to an inflammation that occurs in the middle ear – which is the area in the eustachian tube (ear canal) directly behind the ear drum. The inflammation is usually caused by the accumulation of fluid, which may or may not be infected.
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, 75 percent of children experience at least one episode of otitis media by the time they are 3 years old. Half of those children will have at least two to three episodes of middle ear inflammation.
Fluid and inflammation interfere with hearing because they impede the vibrations of the three tiny bones in the middle ear that cause the eardrum to transmit sound to the inner ear. Untreated, chronic ear infections can damage these bones, the eardrum, and/or the auditory nerve, leading to a permanent hearing loss.
Some of the causes of otitis media include:
- Having a cold or the flu
- Sinus infection
- Infected or enlarged adenoid
- Inhaling secondhand cigarette smoke
- Drinking a baby bottle while lying down
- Crowded living conditions
- Attending daycare
- Having a cleft palate
- Allergies that cause congestion on a chronic basis
Symptoms and signs of otitis media may include one or more of the following:
- Thin, clear, non-infected fluid in the ear without pain
- Glue-like fluid in the ear
- Infected fluid in the ear
- Fluid in the ear with pain
- Decreased hearing
- Pulling, tugging or scratching the ear
- Unexplained fussiness
- Balance problems
To prevent otitis media, adopt the following habits:
- Frequently wash yours and your child’s hands and toys
- Keep them away from cigarette smoke
- Have your child inoculated against flu and pneumococcus
- Breastfeed rather than bottle feed infants
- Avoid giving infants pacifiers and bottles
If you think your child may have inflammation or an infection in his or her ears, please visit a specialist at Pediatric ENT Associates in Birmingham as soon as possible for expert hearing loss treatment.
Preventing Diseases That Cause Hearing Loss
Diseases such as measles, mumps, influenza and some types of meningitis can be prevented with regular childhood vaccines.
To minimize the risk of your child developing chickenpox or acquiring some other form of the herpes viruses (which include cold sores) or infection that may lead to hearing loss, encourage habits such as:
- Covering the mouth with a tissue while coughing or sneezing
- Washing hands frequently
- Avoiding children and other people who are ill
- Seeking early treatment at the first signs of illness
Preventing Ear and Head Trauma
The bones and tissue of the ear are delicate and easily damaged. In addition to being susceptible to mechanical damage such as a puncture injury, the ear drum and bones can be ruptured or compromised by loud noises as well.
The following preventive measures can keep your child’s ears healthy and functional:
- Keep the volume on all electronic devices at a medium to low level
- Put noise-blocking headphones on a child in crowds or at concerts and sports events
- Don’t insert cotton swabs or tissues into the child’s ear to clean it (ear canals are self-cleaning!)
- Discourage your child from inserting their fingers into their ears
- Make sure your child wears a helmet when bike riding or playing sports
- Avoid contact sports such as football, which may lead to head injuries
Learn more about pediatric hearing loss treatment at WebMD.com.
Schedule an Appointment at Pediatric ENT Associates in Birmingham
If you suspect your child may be suffering from an ear inflammation or infection or is experiencing compromised hearing, the specialists at Pediatric ENT Associates of Birmingham, Alabama can provide the treatment your son or daughter needs. Call us at (205) 831-0101 or email us using this online contact form.