Hearing loss is not just reserved for older people and rock band musicians.
Children of all ages are susceptible to hearing loss. While detecting hearing loss at any age is important, it is especially important in young children because hearing plays a crucial role in speech and language development. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2 per 1000 babies who are tested have hearing loss, and 1 out of 1000 children are found to have hearing loss (CDC.gov).
In order to reduce the number of children who have hearing loss but are not tested, newborn hearing screenings are a part of most hospital procedures once a child is born. This allows children who fail the screenings, due to a hearing problem, to receive help. Treating hearing loss before a baby reaches the age of six months results in a significantly better outcome than treating later. (healthyhearing.com).
Sometimes hearing loss in children is not permanent; this is known as transient or fluctuating hearing loss. This class of hearing impairment is most commonly caused by otitis media, also known as middle ear infection. It is reported that “twenty-five percent of kids have had one episode of otitis media by the time they are three years old” (healthyhearing.com). Middle ear infection causes a temporary hearing loss because the surplus fluid from the infection causes the bones in the middle ear from moving and working. Once the surplus fluid is gone, the middle ear can go back to normal functioning as it was prior to the infection. If middle ear function is not properly treated and is recurrent, it can cause permanently damage the middle ear bones which would result in a nonreversible hearing loss.
Other times hearing loss is permanent. Hearing can be genetic or not genetic and at times can occur without symptoms; this can sometimes be frustrating to diagnose. Some genetic syndromes linked to hearing loss include:
- Usher syndrome: a condition characterized by partial or total hearing loss and vision loss that worsens over time (ghr.nlm.nih.gov)
- Treacher Collins syndrome: a condition that affects the development of bones and other tissues of the face (ghr.nlm.nih.gov)
- Waardenburg syndrome: a group of genetic conditions that can cause hearing loss and changes in coloring (pigmentation) of the hair, skin, and eyes; people with this condition typically have a premature patch of white or gray hair (ghr.nlm.nih.gov)
- Down syndrome: a chromosomal condition that is associated with intellectual disability, a characteristic facial appearance, and weak muscle tone (hypotonia) in infancy (ghr.nlm.nih.gov)
- Alport syndrome: a condition characterized by kidney disease, hearing loss, and eye abnormalities (ghr.nlm.nih.gov)
Some non-genetic factors that are linked to hearing loss are:
- Maternal use of nonprescription/prescription drugs during pregnancy
- Maternal diabetes
- Birth complications
- Premature birth
- Serious head injury
- Exposure to secondhand smoke
- Frequent ear infections
Overall, hearing in young children are difficult to diagnose due to them not being able to verbalize a problem. It is up to you as the parent, guardian, or professional to notice behaviors that align with hearing loss.