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A Discussion of Hearing Problems in Children

Up to 15% of all babies born in the United States will suffer some level of hearing loss. Every year, 5,000 more babies are born either severely or entirely deaf. Clearly, the issue of hearing problems in children is an important topic to discuss.

Here are some things you should know.

The Most Common Form Of Hearing Impairment

Most cases of hearing impairment are going to fall under the sensorineural category. This happens when the inner functions of the ear are disturbed. Vibrating signals are sent through the ear canal and picked up by the nerves, telling the brain what the sound is. When the bones, chambers, or nerves are damaged, those vibrations can’t be interpreted.

A number of things can cause a sensorineural impairment. These include infections, trauma to the ears, a congenital condition or genetic impairment, oxygen being cut for a significant amount of time to the brain, medication side effects, and developmental disorders. A pregnant mother contracting meningitis, German measles or Cytomegalovirus (CMV) are three leading causes of pathogen-specific congenital hearing loss. An infant with meningitis is also very prone to malfunction of the hearing sense.

Lack of oxygen may be caused by problems during the childbirth, such as complications during an intensive labor. Premature births may also cause hearing loss, if the inner ear was not fully developed at the time of birth. In some cases this may be reversed through prolonged incubation, but in many cases the ear functions may never properly grow.

What Can Be Done?

Unfortunately, sensorineural hearing is not curable, even with surgical treatments which may be effective in other cases. Treatment is possible through the use of cochlear implants, hearing devices or aids, and education. Training in lip reading, sign language, and various coping skills can help a child with hearing loss handle the challenges that lay ahead of them.

For children who have a hearing loss range of 35 to 70 dB, it is possible to place them within a non-specialized school. However, they will need to be fitted with a hearing aid prior to enrollment, and provided with training early on to help them develop the skills they need to succeed. This will include speech therapy, which is crucial for their development.

Lip reading will also likely be a part of this process. This skill helps children establish context in cases where they have difficulty hearing individual words, or where there is too much noise (such as in a busy school hallway).

What About Children With More Profound Loss?

If your child suffers from a greater degree of hearing loss, don’t lose hope. Cochlear implant technology has evolved greatly in just the past ten years. It is now possible for many severe cases to gain the benefits of these implants, even if it only partially restores their hearing.

An implant works by installing a device within the inner ear, with various components to amplify sound, create vibrations, and dampen other external sounds. Once surgically applied, it can help the profoundly deaf discern some sounds, though they may struggle to discern speech.

Your child will still need specialized attention, but most schools provide programs to assist them. They can also be placed in further training programs to help them prepare for integration in society, a challenge in a world that is so reliant on sound.

Find out more about this and other hearing loss topics at HearingDoctors.net.