Posted March 9, 2020
Good hearing is important for kids to learn and be safe. If hearing problems develop and go undetected, kids may struggle to grow and adapt to the world around them. Here’s what parents and caregivers should know about hearing loss in children.
It’s estimated that 2% of American children are born with hearing loss. It can occur in one or both ears and can be mild, moderate or severe. Here are three things to know:
- About 90% of deaf children are born to two parents with normal hearing.
- Kids with normal hearing at birth may develop hearing loss later on. Nearly 15% of kids ages 6 to 19 suffer from temporary or permanent hearing loss.
- Hospitals routinely conduct newborn hearing tests within 24 to 48 hours after a baby is born. This test can identify babies with moderate to profound hearing loss. If problems are identified, a second screening is conducted a few weeks later. Some kids who pass the initial test may develop mild hearing loss later in childhood. Research shows that kids with even mild hearing loss can struggle with language development and learning in school.
Hearing experts have identified several reasons for hearing loss in children. Here are three primary causes:
- Genetics or medications – Researchers believe that family genetics cause over 50% of hearing loss that kids experience at birth or later in life. Some babies develop hearing problems during pregnancy if the mother has diabetes or preeclampsia. Hearing loss also can happen if the mom took ototoxic medications or has a premature birth.
- Ear infection– Children often have infections in the middle ear, called otitis media. It’s when the tubes connecting the nose to the middle ear are not fully developed. Fluid can develop behind the eardrum and block sound transmissions. Sometimes the hearing loss is temporary as the problem resolves itself. But, if the problem occurs frequently and a severe infection develops, otitis media can create permanent hearing loss.
- Injury or illness– Hearing loss in children may develop from head injuries, exposure to loud noises or illnesses. This includes measles, chickenpox, flu, meningitis or encephalitis. In addition, research indicates that exposure to second-hand smoke can contribute to hearing loss.
Parents should continually watch their kids for signs of hearing problems. Know six common symptoms of hearing loss in children:
- Fails to respond to voices or loud noises.
- Speaks differently than other kids of the same age, makes simple sounds that taper off, misunderstands questions, or says “what?” or “huh?” a lot.
- Complains of ear pain, earaches, or pulls and rubs at the ear.
- Turns up the volume on the TV or digital devices.
- Sits close to the TV or computer screen, or holds digital devices close to the face.
- Struggles academically, or doesn’t participate in class discussions.
Every state now has an early hearing and detection program to screen for hearing loss in children. So all children are screened as infants. There’s also support for families of kids with hearing loss. Parents who detect signs of hearing loss in their kids should ask their doctor about options for hearing tests and treatment.
Identifying and treating hearing problems at a young age can help kids develop normal speech and language skills. Depending on the type and severity of the hearing loss, there are six common treatment options:
- Prescription medication
- Hearing aids
- Cochlear implants
- Speech therapy
- Use of assistive learning devices in school classrooms