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Understanding Hearing Loss in Children

Experiencing hearing loss in the early developmental stages of life can not only make it difficult for a child to hear and enjoy the world around them, but also hinder his or her ability to effectively learn and speak their native language. Regardless of the extent of your son or daughter’s hearing loss, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible, as research has found a positive correlation between early treatment and improved language acquisition, academic success and enhanced opportunities over the course of his or her lifetime.

Common Causes and Symptoms:

Otitis Media

More commonly referred to as a middle ear infection, otitis media causes inflammation in the middle ear (the air-filled space behind the eardrum) and is often characterized by a buildup of fluid, which may or may not is infected. Otitis media is extremely common in infants and young children; in fact, 75 percent of kids experience at least one episode by the time they turn three years old.

Otitis media is especially prevalent in children because their Eustachian tubes (which connect the middle ear to the nose) are not yet fully developed, which makes it easy for fluid to accumulate within the middle ear and potentially become infected. Acute or short-term, otitis media can temporarily affect your child’s hearing, even if there are no signs of pain or infection. If the issue is left unaddressed or becomes chronic, it can also cause permanent damage to his or her hearing. Common symptoms of otitis media include:

  • Inexplicable irritability
  • Tugging on/scratching at their ears
  • Inattentiveness
  • Needing the TV or radio turned up louder than usual
  • Fever
  • Ear pain
  • Lack of reaction to loud noises or voices
  • Uttering simple sounds that taper off
  • Listlessness and/or lack of energy

Congenital Causes

When a disease or condition is referred to as congenital, it means the issue was present at birth. Congenital hearing loss can be hereditary or occur due to issues that arise in utero (prenatal) or at the time of birth (postnatal). More than half of all cases of congenital hearing loss in children are linked to genetic factors (e.g. autosomal dominant genes, autosomal recessive genes, genetic syndromes, etc.). Other common causes of congenital hearing loss include:

  • Maternal diabetes
  • Premature birth
  • Rh factor complications
  • Toxemia (during pregnancy)
  • Lack of oxygen during pregnancy or at birth
  • Intrauterine infections such as herpes simplex, cytomegalovirus, and rubella

Acquired Causes

An acquired hearing loss means it appeared or developed, sometime after the child was born. Acquired hearing loss can happen to anyone at any time, and is typically the result of an injury, condition or disease. Examples of conditions commonly associated with acquired hearing loss in children include:

  • Chronic ear infections (otitis media)
  • Mumps
  • Measles
  • Chicken pox
  • The flu
  • Ototoxic drugs
  • Meningitis
  • Encephalitis
  • Head injuries
  • Prolonged exposure to loud noises

If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s hearing, Davis Family Hearing – Florida’s premier family hearing center – is here to help. To learn about our pediatric treatment packages or our comprehensive array of other quality hearing health care services, stop by or call the location nearest you to schedule a free hearing screening.

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