Have you ever made a loud noise, expecting it to startle your child, only to have them not react at all? Or have you noticed a speech delay in your toddler that seems abnormal? These are a couple of scenarios that may have you concerned about the health of your child’s hearing and that could leave you wondering if medical testing and intervention is necessary.
According to the CDC, hearing loss occurs in 1.4 out of every 1,000 newborns and in 5 out of every 1,000 children aged 3 – 17. And, unfortunately, the prevalence of hearing loss in youth is on the rise. With the increased use of devices such as smart phones, MP3 players, and video game consoles, often combined with earbuds or headphones, young ears are exposed to greater decibels of sound and more frequently than ever before.
So, whether your child is a newborn, toddler, or teen, it is important to understand that hearing loss is a possibility. Here are the three main forms and how each may occur:
Causes of Congenital Hearing Loss
Congenital hearing loss is a condition that is present from birth. Within the first 24 to 48 hours of a baby’s life, they will be administered a hearing screening. Should they fail this screening, a follow-up will be scheduled to take place within a few weeks, and from there, you will begin to determine the exact nature of hearing loss and any appropriate next steps.
Congenital hearing loss generally falls into one of two categories: non-genetic (about 25% of cases) and genetic (over 50% of cases). Causes of non-genetic hearing loss may include:
- Premature birth when certain respiratory drugs are needed
- Birth complications including infection or low oxygen
- The use of ototoxic medications such as certain antibiotics or NSAIDs during pregnancy
- Drug or alcohol abuse during pregnancy
- Nervous system disorders
Genetic causes of hearing loss may be:
- Autosomal recessive hearing loss – The most common form of genetic hearing loss, autosomal recessive occurs when both parents unwittingly carry a recessive gene that is then passed to the child.
- Autosomal dominant hearing loss – In this form of hearing loss, one parent carries a dominant gene for hearing loss that is then passed to the child.
- Genetic syndromes – Hearing loss occurs along with some syndromes that are passed to children genetically such as Down, Usher, Crouzon, Alport, Treacher Collins, and Waardenburg.
Causes of Acquired Hearing Loss
Just as it sounds, acquired hearing loss occurs after birth due to outside factors. This type of hearing loss can occur at any age. Some of the causes include:
- Ototoxic medications
- Eardrum perforation
- Excessive exposure to loud noises
- Head injuries
- Untreated ear infections
- Infections from measles, meningitis, whooping cough, or mumps
Causes of Transient Hearing Loss
Not all forms of hearing loss are permanent. Transient hearing loss is temporary hearing loss that will likely eventually resolve on its own, although medical intervention in the form of medications is often still recommended. Young children are more prone to develop this form of hearing loss due to middle ear infections than others, and as a result, problems with speech and language development can occur. To help prevent such complications, it is recommended that each case of otitis media be monitored and treated by a physician.
Suspecting hearing loss in your child can be a frightening prospect. Fortunately, from medications to cochlear implants to hearing aids, there are a growing number of treatment options available. As a parent, you simply need to be aware of the signs and potential causes, and have your child seen for testing with a skilled audiologist should a problem ever be suspected.
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