Hearing loss is difficult at any age. In children, it’s particularly challenging, as it creates a barrier to learning. Fortunately, many causes of pediatric hearing loss are treatable, and it is often possible to return the sounds of childhood to a young life.
Categories of Hearing LossAs with adults, hearing loss in children is measured in degrees. The loss can range from mild, one that causes difficulty hearing hushed tones such as whispers, to moderately severe, where the child can still hear loud speech, to a total loss resulting in deafness. Pediatric hearing loss falls into two main categories. A conductive loss is associated with conditions in the external or middle ear that block the transmission of sound, and is the most common type. Ear infections, fluid or foreign objects in the in the ear, impacted earwax, a perforated eardrum, or a birth defect that alters the shape of the ear canal are all common causes. Many of these conditions can be treated through minor procedures or surgery. Sensorineural hearing loss, or nerve deafness, involves a problem with the inner ear or central auditory pathway to the brain. This can be caused by viral or bacterial infections, the use of ototoxic drugs such as antibiotics, premature birth, and other congenital factors. There is no cure for sensorineural hearing loss, but in most cases hearing aids help restore the ability to communicate.
SymptomsSigns that might indicate hearing issues in children of different ages:
- Newborn/Infant: Not startling at loud noises; delayed speech development.
- Toddler and Older: Having difficulty in school; not responding to somebody who is speaking unless face to face with that person; watching TV at an excessively loud volume; stating that he/she is having trouble hearing.