Luckily, hearing loss is not as common among children as among adults. It must however be noted that around 1-3% of all children have a hearing loss to a lesser or greater extent. Some are born with a hearing loss while others get it after birth. In some developing countries, the number of children with hearing loss is sadly significantly higher because of a lack of treatment for ear infections.
Causes of hearing loss in children
Hearing loss in children is normally caused by genetic factors, illnesses or medication.
Most children experience temporary hearing loss during childhood due to earwax or Otitis Media. Otitis Media and earwax can easily be dealt with by a doctor. But Otitis Media may lead to a permanent hearing impairment if it is left untreated.
A permanent hearing loss in children is often caused by genetic factors. An inherited hearing loss does not necessarily mean that one or both parents are also hard of hearing. Many babies with hearing loss are born to hearing parents, who may have passed on the condition by being carriers of recessive genes.
Infections during pregnancy, such as rubella, cytomegalovirus and herpes may cause a permanent hearing loss. After birth, traumas to the head or childhood infections, such as meningitis, measles or chicken pox can cause permanent hearing loss, as well as certain medications.
Hearing screening of newborns
In some countries, they offer a hearing screening to all newborns to identify a possible hearing loss. This is done with a special instrument. The screening takes a few seconds, is painless and it does not harm the newborn in any way.
Signs to look for
Parents can watch for signs that indicate a possible hearing loss in older children. Delayed or absent speech is the most important clue which can indicate possible hearing loss. Infants and young children have developmental milestones that parents can watch for to identify a possible hearing loss. For older children there are other signs. These can for example be:
- Your child wants the TV at a loud volume
- Your child does not respond when you speak or often says "What?"
- Your child is just not paying attention
- Your child experiences learning problems at school
What should I do?
If you suspect that your child might have a hearing loss, you should contact your family doctor/GP as soon as possible.
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