What is Pediatric Hearing Loss?
Pediatric hearing loss refers to a child with a reduced ability to hear. Children's ability to hear is important for developing language, speech, and behavioral skills as they grow. Hearing loss in children is generally grouped into two different types based on when in the child's life the hearing loss developed. These types of pediatric hearing loss include:
- Congenital hearing loss - hearing loss that was present at the child's birth.
- Acquired hearing loss - occurs after birth of the child.
Pediatric hearing loss can also be defined by what portion of the ear is causing the hearing loss. The different locations are referred to as:
- Conductive hearing loss - outer or middle ear is causing the hearing loss.
- Sensorineural hearing loss - inner ear is causing the hearing loss.
- Mixed hearing loss - refers to a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.
Causes of Pediatric Hearing Loss
Congenital hearing loss, or hearing loss that was present at the child's birth, can have several causes, which are generally either caused by genetic factors or non-genetic factors. Common non-genetic causes of congenital hearing loss can include:
- Birth complications or premature birth
- Diabetes affecting the mother
- A nervous system disorder or brain disorder
- Drug, alcohol, tobacco, or ototoxic medication use by the mother during pregnancy
- Infection of the mother during pregnancy
Genetic causes of congenital hearing loss may include:
- Genetic syndromes such as Down Syndrome, Usher Syndrome, Treacher Collins Syndrome, etc.
- Autosomal recessive hearing loss - refers to when both parents carry a recessive hearing loss gene.
- Autosomal dominant hearing loss - refers to when only one parent carries a dominant gene that gets passed on to their child.
Acquired hearing loss, or hearing loss that originated after the birth of the child, also can have several causes including:
- Punctured or perforated eardrum
- Severe head injuries
- Exposure to excessively loud noises
- Frequent or untreated ear infections
- Exposure to significant secondhand smoke
- Meniere's disease or otosclerosis
- Ototoxic medications
- Infections such as mumps, whooping cough, or meningitis
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Pediatric Hearing Loss
Your child will likely be unaware of their hearing loss as they are not familiar with what is normal levels of hearing or they may be unable to communicate with you due to their young age. Signs that your child has hearing loss can include:
- Frequent scratching, rubbing, or pulling at the ears
- Not understanding directions or requests
- Turning up the volume on the radio or television
- Not being alerted by sounds
- Speaking differently than their similarly aged peers
- Academic issues
If you notice hearing loss symptoms in your child, visit your ENT specialist for a physical examination, testing, and diagnosis. Behavior hearing examinations can be performed on children as young as six months old who are unable to be tested using traditional procedures.
Treatments for Pediatric Hearing Loss
Treatment will depend on the specific cause of your child's hearing loss. Common treatments for pediatric hearing loss can include:
- Removing or cleaning of an obstruction or buildup of earwax
- Prescription medication or antibiotics for infections
- Cochlear implants
- Hearing aids
- Speech therapy