The ears play a vital role in the development of your child—cognitively, emotionally, and socially. When your child is born, they will use their hearing to integrate and learn about the fascinating new world around them. However, hearing problems can have an impact on your child’s ability to develop speech and language.
The thought of your child losing his or her hearing can be very stressful, but there are many treatments available that can reduce the symptoms or ensure a high quality of life. This quick guide to hearing problems in kids will help you learn more about the causes and symptoms.
Hearing Problems in Kids
Hearing problems in kids are quite common in the USA, with the CDC reporting that around 1.7 in 1,000 kids will be born with some form of hearing problem. In the vast majority of cases, the parents will have no history of hearing problems. Further research has highlighted that over 10 percent of the population in the United States may display hearing problems or hearing loss between the ages of 6 and 19.
The good news is that routine screenings during child wellness exams will usually pick up any issues. In many cases, problems that happen after birth can be easily treated if detected early. In recent research, the CDC has found that early detection of hearing loss in babies had less impact on their ability to develop language skills.
There are many reasons for hearing problems in kids of all ages. Some babies will be born with hearing problems, and these issues may be due to genetic factors, even if the parents don’t have hearing problems themselves. Premature babies are at a high-risk factor and will need to be carefully monitored. Other issues that can cause hearing problems in newborns include:
- Birth complications or maternal infections during pregnancy
- Nervous system or brain disorder
- Maternal diabetes
- Smoking during pregnancy
Hearing problems can also develop as your child grows older. Again, some of these hearing problems can be very mild, while others carry significant risks of permanent hearing damage.
It is very common for younger children to get ear infections, such as otitis media. These infections are caused by a buildup fluid in the Eustachian tubes, which can affect a child’s hearing. Quick diagnosis and treatment will solve the problem without any lasting damage, but if the condition is left untreated, it can lead to permanent hearing damage.
Other conditions that can cause hearing problems in kids include:
- Perforated eardrum
- Infections such as meningitis and measles
- Head injuries
- Exposure to loud noises
- Secondhand smoke
Signs to Lookout For
A newborn’s hearing will be tested before they go home, and hearing screenings will be part of regular child wellness exams. However, there are signs that you can watch out for at home. If your baby doesn’t react to loud noises or your voice, it’s a good idea to have them checked out.
As your child starts developing, they should smile or respond when they hear your voice, and they should turn toward sounds. They will also begin to react to toys and other stimuli around them. If you notice that your child isn’t responding to auditory stimuli, mention this to your doctor.
If the problems are due to ear infections, they will usually be fussy and pull at their ears. In older kids, they may want the TV to be louder, or they may be lethargic. In all cases, speak with your doctor, as quick treatment will help minimize the symptoms and prevent any complications.