He’s blocking out everything you say. He doesn’t remember instructions. His teachers say he’s inattentive in school. He pretends not to hear you. Or does he?
The symptoms of hearing loss in children can mimic behaviors that parents may interpret as being rude, distracted or rebellious. Hearing loss may be temporary — caused by an infection or blockage — or permanent.
The Signs of Hearing Loss in Children
Infants are given hearing tests before being discharged from the hospital. But hearing loss can develop at any stage of development — from infancy to the teens and beyond. A pediatric ENT (ear, nose, throat) physician in Birmingham, Alabama can evaluate your child to determine if he or she is suffering from hearing loss and make recommendations for solutions.
Signs that your child may need to be evaluated for pediatric hearing loss include:
- Needing the volume on the TV or SmartPhone turned up higher than other family members do.
- Seeming like he or she is not listening or doesn’t understand what you say.
- Speak louder than usual.
- Staring at people when they speak as if trying to interpret what they say or read visual cues.
- Looking confused when you speak, often says, “What?” or asks you to repeat yourself.
- Not responding when you call them, especially if you’re out of sight.
- Having trouble in school and not responding when addressed in the classroom.
- Having trouble speaking clearly.
- Having trouble interacting with other children.
- Infants and young children may pull at or scratch their ears.
The Causes of Hearing Loss in Children
Hearing loss may be either congenital or non-congenital. Congenital hearing loss is present at birth. Non-congenital hearing loss is acquired.
Congenital hearing loss may be caused by:
- Genetics (50 percent of cases)
- Intrauterine infections, including herpes simplex, rubella and cytomegalovirus
- Maternal diabetes
- Rh blood-factor problems
- Toxemia during gestation
- Lack of oxygen during birth
- Down, Usher or Alport syndromes (affects only one ear)
Even if your child was born with impaired hearing, it may take months or years to manifest. Hearing loss often progresses slowly. As soon as you notice signs of hearing loss, contact your pediatric ENT in Birmingham.
Non-congenital or acquired hearing loss is usually caused by otitis media — an inflammation of the middle ear. The inflammation is usually associated with a buildup of infected or non-infected fluid in the eustachian tube, which runs between the middle ear and the back of the throat.
The eustachian tube is still developing in young children. It is shorter and less angled than in older children and adults, which makes it harder for fluids to drain out of the ear. By their third birthday, 75 percent of children will have had at least one episode of otitis media and half of those will have had three or more ear infections during that time.
While ear infections are common in children and usually resolve with antibiotic treatment by a pediatric ENT, repeated ear infections can permanently damage the child’s eardrum, ear bones or auditory nerves.
Other causes of acquired hearing loss include:
- Noise exposure
- Head injury
- Drugs that damage the auditory system
Treating Hearing Loss in Children
If you suspect your child may be suffering from pediatric hearing loss, you may be worried and frightened. A pediatric ENT will be able to diagnose the problem, treat any infections that may be present, drain fluids that may be impairing hearing with an ear tube and make recommendations for further treatment, if necessary.
If your child’s hearing loss is deemed to be permanent, there are solutions your pediatric ENT can recommend to improve or restore hearing. Restoring hearing is especially crucial for young children because they need to hear speech in order to develop their own speech and language abilities.
Hearing aids can be used in children as young as 1 month old. They are fitted to the outside of the ear and amplify sounds so that your child is better able to hear them. Your pediatric ENT will be able to prescribe the right size and type of hearing aid that will fit your child’s age and needs.
Cochlear implants are a two-part surgical implant that allows children to process sound and “hear.” They are appropriate for children who have profound hearing loss who otherwise would not be able to hear again. An external microphone is connected to an electronic device that is surgically implanted in the cochlea. The device transmits the sounds picked up by the microphone to the brain, allowing your child to hear again.
Learn more about hearing aids at FDA.gov.
Schedule a Hearing Test Today
If you suspect your child is having trouble hearing either due to an ear infection or another cause, call the pediatric ENT specialists at Pediatric ENT Associates in Birmingham, Alabama. Contact us online or give us a call to schedule an appointment.
Next, learn about The Critical Hearing Milestones in Infants.
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