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When most people think of hearing loss, they usually picture someone older. However, hearing loss can occur in children as well. The seriousness of the loss can range from mild to extreme. Because language and speech skills are affected by any degree of hearing loss, diagnosis and treatment should occur as soon as possible- early intervention is key.
What is pediatric audiology?
Pediatric audiology is the diagnosis and treatment of hearing and sound recognition problems in infants and young children. Hearing disorders may only become apparent as a child grows and their expected command of language and sound recognition increases. At Memorial Hearing, we see children ages 5 and up at this time and will be expanding in order to accommodate younger patients in the near future.
Causes of Hearing Loss in Children
Hearing loss in children can occur at birth or when the child is older.
Some causes of hearing loss at birth include:
- Genetic factors
- Lack of oxygen during labor
- Intrauterine infections such as cytomegalovirus, rubella and herpes simplex virus
- Maternal diabetes
- Toxemia during pregnancy
If a child acquires hearing loss after birth, some causes include:
- Frequent ear infections
- Measles, mumps, meningitis, encephalitis or chickenpox
- Second-hand smoke exposure
- Head injury
- Excessive noise exposure
- Ototoxic drugs
Screening for Hearing Loss
Hearing loss screening can begin with newborns. Within the first two days of life, the infant’s hearing ability is tested. Another screening is scheduled if the newborn does not pass the initial one.
As a child grows, parents are often the best screeners, as they are around the child and can usually tell if something is not right. Pay attention to hearing objectives, and visit a pediatric audiologist if a baby or child does not seem to be developing properly so that hearing loss can be ruled out, or intervention can begin.
At Memorial Hearing, we can help you determine how severe the loss of hearing is, and this helps determine the type of treatment. One option is using technology in the form of hearing aids, of which we work with children ages 5 and up. Other options that can be referred out include cochlear implants or bone-anchored hearing aids. A hearing aid is effective for the majority of children with hearing loss. An implant may be better for severe loss, and a bone-anchored hearing aid is suitable for those who cannot wear traditional hearing aids.
Assistive devices are also used to help children. Examples of these include closed captioning, FM systems, text messaging, flashing alarms, telephone amplifiers, infrared listening devices and portable sound amplifiers.
Medication given by an Ear, Nose, and Throat physician may help treat hearing loss that is caused by certain infections or fluid buildup. Surgery by an ENT, such as ear tubes, may also be a treatment option.
If the child is older, and the hearing loss has begun to affect how he or she speaks, additional help in the form of speech therapy may be necessary. Parents should also seek support in the form of advice, finding childcare or just someone to listen.
What to expect at a pediatric audiology appointment
The first step will be to ask you about any symptoms you have noticed or particular concerns that caused you to come in in the first place. These general questions can offer your Houston audiologist insight into what might be going on, after which you will be told about the different types of testing that are recommended.
Indicators of child hearing loss
The indicators of child hearing loss are in many ways similar to those of an adult, though they may be less likely to recognize the issue so you should look out for them. Indicators that can reveal a problem are your child speaking at too high a volume without the intent to do so, problems with holding attention and being unresponsive to verbal commands or directions. Another clue is when the child only responds to you when you are facing each other directly.
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Hearing loss in children can be treated, and there are many options for all levels of severity.