Hearing Loss in Children – Causes and Treatments
Although a majority of the hearing loss problems are commonly found in old age, the young people, especially the children are not excluded from hearing disabilities. Studies show that every year about 7% of the children are born with various types of hearing impairments in India. While some children develop it gradually with time (typically known as Acquired Hearing Loss), most of the children are born with hearing disabilities (known as Congenital Hearing Loss). Hearing ability is especially important for children, as it helps them to develop speech and language skills. If a child is excluded from this basic yet vital sense organ, he/she usually show speech and language disorders, and even other developmental problems.
While childhood hearing loss is becoming quite common day by day, a good news is that a majority of the hearing problems in children can be fully cured, which was not so a few years back. In the last few decades, hearing problem treatment has undergone vast developments, as the technology started flourishing. Previously, hearing problems in children went undetected till as late as 2 years of age, when they did not show any developmental signs in speech and language skills, or even did not learn talking at all. As a result, the child suffering from hearing disabilities faced more and more problems with each advancing day. If hearing problem treatment is not started at an earlier stage, then the child may be deprived of all the facilities that his/her future would have otherwise had in store for him/her.
You as a responsible parent of the hearing impaired child, should start early intervention – immediately after he/she is born, to test whether there is any hearing disability present. It is done commonly through hearing screening tests, specially done for newborns, which is performed universally, and it should not be delayed at all. Hearing problem treatment for children vary according to the cause of hearing disabilities in them. It also depends on the type of hearing loss (mainly Conductive, Sensorineural and Mixed) and degree of hearing loss (mainly mild, moderate, moderately severe, severe and profound). With the advancement of technology, hearing problem treatment also gained great impetus, and if treatment is started at the earliest stage possible, then the child may even be completely cured of all hearing disabilities with such revolutionary treatment techniques used today.
As mentioned earlier, childhood hearing loss can be either Congenital, which appear from birth, and Acquired, which appear gradually over time due to various situations. Some common causes of Congenital hearing loss include premature birth and other birth complications, neuro-developmental disorders (nervous and/or brain disorders), intake of ototoxic medications by the mother during pregnancy, mother had some infection during pregnancy, maternal diabetes, intake of harmful drugs or alcohol, and/or smoking during pregnancy, and mental trauma or physical injuries occured to the mother during pregnancy. Apart from these, genetic factors might also cause hearing problems at birth. Acquired hearing loss in children is caused due to a perforated eardrum, progressive diseases like Otosclerosis or Meniere’s disease, infections like meningitis, measles, mumps or whooping cough, intake of ototoxic medications, serious mental trauma or brain injury, exposure to excessively loud decibels of noise (noise-induced hearing loss), untreated or frequent Otitis Media (ear infections), exposure to passive smoking, and many others. However, it is studied that about 50% of hearing disabilities in children occur due to hereditary issues, either at birth, or are developed a few years later.
Hearing problem treatment is immediately required for child hearing loss, as it is the vital stage in a child’s life to learn speech and language skills. Apart from these skills, being able to hear properly from childhood, a child will also learn other developmental skills. Hearing problem treatment for children includes wearing hearing aids, undergoing cochlear implant surgeries, various speech therapies and assistive listening devices. Let us have a quick glance at each of these treatments –
- Hearing aids – There are many advanced hearing aids designed especially for children and they serve as good hearing problem treatment for them. There are several models to choose from like behind-the-ear, invisible-in-the-canal, etc. However, always consult a certified Audiologist before taking any decision.
- Cochlear implant – These are electronic devices that are surgically implanted in the ear to bypass the damaged portions of the cochlear area of the ear. This surgery, however, is the last hearing problem treatment solution when everything else fails. This decision will, however, be taken by your Audiologist as he/she would best know what is right for your child. Many cochlear implant companies even produce soft headbands to protect the machine.
- Speech therapy – It is done only by a certified Speech-Language Pathologist, and they detect whether the child’s speech and language skills are hampered as a result of hearing impairment. Based on the assessment, they recommend the necessary hearing problem treatment accordingly.
- Assistive listening devices – These devices, such as FM systems, work well with hearing aids or cochlear implants. The FM systems make the sound quality better in the classroom set-ups and other noisy areas.
Hence, you as the parent of a hearing impaired child, should never delay in getting a proper hearing problem treatment from a good Audiologist. Your child’s hearing health will determine his/her future. So promise a better quality of life and future to your child by getting for him/her a good hearing problem treatment.