Non-congenital hearing loss in children can be caused by external factors, illness, or trauma. This type of hearing loss is not genetic and occurs after birth, which is why it’s commonly referred to as acquired hearing loss.

There are a variety of methods to treat acquired hearing loss, including a few surgical procedures that provide more permanent solutions. Cochlear implants help children with severe or profound hearing loss in both ears by transmitting sound through a speech processor behind the ear to an implanted device. Children with severe malformations in their inner or outer ear may benefit most from a bone-anchored hearing system. Those who experience recurring ear infections can have ear tubes placed to stop the process from happening again.

Whether the solution is found through surgery, medication, hearing aids, sign language, speech therapy, assistive listening devices, or a combination of methods, there are ways to help effectively improve hearing for children with non-congenital hearing loss.

What is Non-Congenital Hearing Loss?

Non-congenital hearing loss is a degree of deafness that is acquired after birth. It’s not genetic in nature or caused by any factors experienced in the womb. Conditions that are onset from birth are referred to as congenital conditions instead.

Hearing loss presents itself as mild, moderate, severe, or profound. While non-congenital conditions aren’t all permanent, some can cause a lifelong struggle, especially if categorized as severe or profound. There are options to treat or help improve a child’s hearing capabilities through surgery to enhance their quality of life.

General symptoms of hearing loss in children are the inability to hear faint sounds, a lack of response to sound, or delayed or impaired speech development. If a child is showing these symptoms, especially if they present themselves suddenly, they may have incurred non-congenital pediatric hearing loss.

There are 4 categorizations of hearing loss, ranging from mild to profound. Mild hearing loss will cause a child to have trouble hearing soft sounds. Moderate hearing loss will cause them to have trouble following speech at normal volume, especially in the presence of additional noises. When hearing loss is severe, a child will struggle to hear loud noises. When it’s at a profound level of deafness, a child will struggle to hear any sound.

Causes of Acquired Hearing Loss

Acquired hearing loss is a condition that presents itself after birth. It can stem from a variety of causes, including:

  • Ototoxic medications
  • Encephalitis
  • Mumps
  • Measles
  • Meningitis
  • Large vestibular aqueduct
  • Head injury or trauma
  • Noise exposure
  • Chronic ear infections (otitis media)
  • Chickenpox
  • Influenza
  • Perforated eardrum
  • Otosclerosis (Meniere’s disease)
  • Whooping cough
  • Exposure to toxins (second-hand smoke)

The most common of these causes is otitis media (constant or untreated ear infections). This causes inflammation in the middle ear that results in the build-up of infected or non-infected fluid. In severe cases, this fluid has a glue-like consistency and can result in permanent hearing loss. Otitis media is almost guaranteed to cause hearing loss, which is one of the reasons why it’s the most common cause of hearing loss in children. To treat fluid issues, myringotomy tubes can be placed to stop infections from recurring.

Depending on the cause, hearing loss can be sensorineural or conductive. Sensorineural hearing loss is permanent due to damage to the inner ear or auditory nerve. Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound is blocked by something, such as a foreign object, impacted earwax, or fluid from otitis media. When the three tiny bones in the inner ear fail to pass along sound waves to the inner ear, or the eardrum fails to vibrate, a condition is also considered conductive.

Conductive conditions are typically easier to treat than sensorineural, and it’s possible for a child’s hearing to fully return. Most cases of sensorineural hearing won’t respond to treatment and require more drastic measures to help a child to hear.

How to Prevent Acquired Hearing Loss in Children

There are many ways to help prevent acquired hearing loss from occurring in children. By preventing otitis media, diseases, or ear and head trauma, parents or guardians can help protect their child’s hearing capabilities. For more information, please see our blog on How to Prevent Non-Congenital Hearing Loss in Children.

Contact Birmingham’s Top Pediatric ENTs For More Information

Pediatric ENT Associates at Children’s of Alabama in Birmingham, AL, is here to help with acquired hearing loss. Our experts provide high-quality care that helps children to hear as well as possible. Specializing in diagnostic, medical, and surgical care for the head and neck, our professionals effectively treat the ear, nose, or throat of an affected child. Contact us today to see how our caring team can help the child you love.