As hearing loss in adults can negatively affect communication and social interaction, more especially in children it can impede development of language, communication, and social skills. The earlier a child is diagnosed with hearing loss, the better their chance of development.
Screening and Diagnosis
All babies should have a hearing screening no later than 1 month of age. Generally, a baby’s hearing will be screened while they are still in the hospital. If a baby does not pass a hearing screening, it’s very important to get a full hearing test as soon as possible, but no later than 3 months of age.
Children should have their hearing tested before they enter school, or at any time there is a concern about their hearing.
Signs and Symptoms
Even if your child has passed hearing screenings, it’s important to be aware of the following signs and have their hearing screened again.
Signs in Babies:
- Not startled by loud noises.
- Does not turn to the source of a sound after 6 months of age.
- Does not say single words by 1 year of age.
- Does not turn head when you call out his or her name.
- Seems to hear some sounds but not others.
Signs in Children:
- Speech is delayed.
- Speech is not clear.
- Turns the volume up too high on TV, iPad, or other handheld devices.
Types of Hearing Loss in Children
Hearing loss present at birth, or congenital hearing loss, can be caused by genetic or nongenetic factors.
Nongenetic factors known to cause congenital hearing loss (account for about 25%) include:
- Maternal infections, such as rubella, cytomegalovirus, or herpes simplex virus
- Low birth weight
- Birth injuries
- Toxins including drugs and alcohol consumed by the mother during pregnancy
- Complications associated with the Rh factor in the blood, such as jaundice
- Maternal diabetes
- Toxemia during pregnancy
- Lack of oxygen (anoxia)
Genetic factors are thought to cause more than 50% of all hearing loss. Autosomal recessive hearing lossis caused by both parents carrying the recessive gene and passing along to the child. Since both parents carry the recessive gene, it is often surprising to have a child with hearing loss as neither would have a personal history of hearing loss. This inheritance pattern contributes to about 70% of all genetic hearing loss. Autosomal dominant hearing lossoccurs when an abnormal gene from one parent is able to cause hearing loss even when the matching gene from the other parent is normal. The autosomal dominant pattern accounts for about 15% of all genetic hearing loss cases.
Hearing loss is also an included symptom in many specific genetic syndromes such as:
- Down syndrome
- Usher syndrome
- Treacher-Collins syndrome
- Crouzon syndrome
- Alport syndrome
- Waardenburg syndrome
Hearing loss can also be acquired after birth, as a result of injury or illness. Conditions that can cause hearing loss in children:
- Ear infections (very common for children)
- Medications that are toxic to the ears
- Head injury
- Noise exposure
Visit your audiologist to discuss different treatment options depending upon your child’s diagnosis. Close monitoring and follow-ups help clarify along the way any changes or modifications needed to personalize the treatment plan, giving your child the optimal progress and development.