Hearing loss in children not only impacts the sound experience of a life yet to be lived to the fullest, but it also creates a barrier to a child’s number-one job: learning. Fortunately, many causes of hearing loss are treatable, and it is often possible to return the sounds of childhood to a young life. At Ear Nose & Throat Medical and Surgical Group, we treat patients of all ages, and we take particular pleasure in helping children with hearing loss, who have so much ahead of them to hear and learn.
Categories of Hearing Loss That Affect Children
Unlike adults, hearing loss in children is most commonly conductive hearing loss, rather than sensorineural hearing loss. As with adults, hearing loss in children is measured in degrees: It can range from mild (one that causes difficulty hearing hushed tones such as a whisper) to moderate (where the child can still hear loud speech) to a complete loss of hearing.
Conductive Hearing Loss
The most common type of hearing loss in children is a conductive hearing loss associated with conditions in the external or middle ear that block the transmission of sound. In children these conditions are most typically otitis media, impacted cerumen, a perforated eardrum, or birth defects that alter the structure of the external auditory canal and/or middle-ear system. Most conductive hearing losses are medically treatable through antibiotics and/or surgery.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural loss is the second most common type of hearing loss, resulting from damage to the cochlea (inner ear) and the auditory nerve. Sensorineural hearing loss in children is often congenital. Other causes of sensorineural hearing loss include ototoxic medications, premature birth, and illnesses. Sensorineural hearing loss is not medically treatable; however, in most cases, children can be helped with hearing aids or cochlear implants.
Symptoms of Hearing Loss in Children
Signs of possible hearing loss in children range from not startling at loud sounds to speech delay to academic difficulties, depending on the age of the child.
- Not startling at loud noises
- Unable to localize sound
- Not showing normal speech development
Toddler and Older:
- Speech and language delays
- Academic difficulties/delays
- Needing louder than “normal” volume to hear television
- Needing multiple verbal repetitions
- Stating that he/she is having difficulty hearing