Until a few years ago, hearing loss went undetected in young children until about the age of two. This is the age in which speech development becomes more apparent, which alerts parents and doctors of a potential problem with hearing ability. We are finding, however that in order to avoid developmental delays in communication and speech, much earlier detection, prevention and intervention is crucial.
Ideally, hearing damage issues would be detected prior to six months of age, in order to properly treat those issues and prevent further damage resulting in developmental delays. Fortunately, because of this it has become common practice in hospitals across the country to do newborn hearing screening tests so that hearing loss can be identified and treated as soon as possible.
Babies Have Hearing Loss?
The CDC did a study in 2013 that estimated at least 12.5% of teens and children (ages ranging from six to 19) have some degree of permanent hearing loss. Most of these cases in older children are a result of environmental noise exposure.
Babies can have hearing loss even at birth, however, for different reasons. This type of damage is called congenital hearing loss, which has several causes ranging from genetic to non-genetic.
Some congenital hearing loss causes include premature birth, maternal alcohol or drug abuse, maternal diabetes, birth complications, diseases such as herpes or rubella, lack of oxygen at birth, brain or nervous system disorders, and maternal use of ototoxic (over-the-counter pain) medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen) during pregnancy. This type of non-genetic factor accounts for approximately 25% of congenital hearing loss in infants.
Genetic congenital factors cause more than 50% of hearing loss at birth, and this hearing loss is not always evident at birth; it may be manifested later in life. Genetic factors may include autosomal dominant or autosomal recessive hearing loss, in which one or more parents carry a gene for hearing loss and may or may not experience hearing loss themselves. Genetic syndromes such as Warrdenburg Syndrom, Down Syndrome, Usher Syndrome, Crouzon Syndrome or Teacher Collins Syndrome may also be the culprit. Some causes of infant hearing loss are still unknown.
It is important for parents, guardians, doctors and teachers to be aware of the signs of hearing damage to achieve the earliest possible diagnosis and treatment. Earlier treatment leads to stopping hearing loss and preventing further damage to hearing in most cases, which will in turn benefit the child’s development in many areas.
Hearing Loss in Older Children
For children that are not born with hearing loss, but manifest it during older childhood, the reasons are usually external, from serious head injuries to damaged eardrums, ear infections, exposure to second-hand smoke, ototoxic medication use, and exposure to loud noises.
Hearing Loss is Not Always Permanent
Hearing loss can also be temporary, often caused by ear infections. It is estimated that at least 3 in 4 children have had this type of ear infection at least once before age 3. Transient hearing damage can also impair speech and language development, and is caused when fluid blocks sound vibrations in the middle ear, muffling sound. Most of the hearing loss associated with ear infections is resolved when the ear infections heal, but untreated frequent ear infections can cause permanent hearing damage.
If a child in your life shows signs of hearing damage, be sure they are screened as soon as possible to determine a diagnosis and treatment plan, if needed. Hearing damage is not reversible, but it is preventable, and treatable if caught early enough.
The first step to halting hearing loss and preventing further damage is to recognize your situation. Come in today for a hearing screening and formulate a strategy to train your brain to listen actively and effectively.