Hearing loss in babies – Pay attention for signs of hearing loss in babies or mild hearing loss in babies. Causes explained, hearing aids, ear infections, noise pollution, ear wax and simple tips to keep your kids ears safe.
All about hearing loss in babies
About one in a 1000 children are born with severe hearing defects. Many more have less severe defects and may develop hearing deficits before adulthood.
Failure to recognize and treat a deficit can seriously impair a child’s ability to speak and understand language. The impairment can be manifested as boredom, inattentiveness, slow learning, teasing by peers, isolation and emotional difficulties.
Pay attention to cues to detect mild hearing loss in babies
Normal children speak by imitating the sounds that they hear. They don’t have to be taught to speak, but just absorb words like a sponge soaks in water.
A child is mute because he hasn’t heard sounds and words.
Babies with normal hearing should be making familiar baby sounds such as “da da” and “ma ma” by eleven months.
A hearing impaired child doesn’t realize that she can’t hear, because she doesn’t know better and has used to quieter world. Some of them become skillful lip readers.
You may suspect a severe hearing defect or a moderate hearing loss if your baby does not respond to sounds or has difficulty talking or has delayed speech.
This is why children who are developing well in one setting, but who have significant social, behavioral, language or learning difficulties in another setting should be screened for hearing deficits.
What are the major causes of hearing loss in babies – especially newborns ?
Low birth weight, specially less than one and half kilos.
Low Agpar Score (lower than 5 at 1 minute or 7 at 5 minutes) at birth.
Low blood oxygen or seizures resulting from a difficult delivery.
Infection with rubella, syphilis, herpes, or toxoplasmosis in the womb.
Genetic cranial or facial abnormalities, specially those involving the outer ear and the ear canal.
High level of bilirubin in the blood.
Bloodstream infection (sepsis)
Prolonged time spent on a ventilator
Drugs such as gentamicin and some diuretics.
History of hearing loss in a parent or close relation.
What are the causes of hearing loss in children ?
In addition to all the above reasons, it may be due to
Accumulation of ear wax
Head trauma with skull fracture or loss of consciousness
Some neurological disorders.
Perforation of the eardrum from infection after sticking hairpins, ear buds, pencils within
Otitis Media which manifests itself with high fever, crying, rubbing the ear because of fluid accumulation in the middle ear. The ear drum can perforate, while the child feels relief, but pus trickles out.
Children regain normal hearing after 3 to 4 weeks, although chronic otitis media can result in persistent hearing loss.
Serous otitis frequently follows, which is a fluid collection behind the eardrum, caused by an allergy. When it thickens it results in hearing impairment.
Otoslerosis – a hereditary disorder in which the bone surrounding the middle ear and inner ear sprouts widely to immobilize the stirrup (the bone attached to the inner ear).
Hence it cannot transmit sounds properly and sometimes damage the nerves that connect the inner ear into the brain.
Noise is a major cause of hearing loss in infants
Today’s 10 to 15 year olds will have hearing problems some 30 years sooner than their parents if they continue to be exposed to loud noises and/or use gadgets that stream music directly into the ear.
Worse still, even ten years old have some hearing difficulties if they are barraged by noise too long, too loud.
The higher the decibels (dB), the less time it takes to produce hearing loss. Extremely loud noise-gunfire, an explosion, sitting too close to speakers at a Rock Concert (all 140 dB) can cause hearing loss in a single exposure.
Potentially damaging noises include highly amplified music (120 dB), power tools (110 dB), restaurant (90dB). Brief exposure to an action packed film (105 dB) usually produces a temporary hearing loss lasting for a few hours to a day or so.
Prolonged exposure to more than 85 dB can cause hearing damage.
Warning signs are a blocked feeling, ringing ears and difficulty in understanding certain words.
It is recommended that all babies be tested for hearing deficits by the age of 7 months.
If hearing loss is detected, the child may be fitted with a hearing aid and could be enrolled in an educational setting responsive to children with hearing loss.”
Examination of the child’s ears by an ENT doctor for abnormalities.
Ear wax and ear infections – Watch out for early signs of hearing loss in babies
Ear wax can be manually removed or dissolved with ear drops in your doctor’s office.
Keep a perforated eardrum clean.
You can clear pus with clean linen. To dry the inside of the ear, insert a small wick made from newspaper into the ear and let it soak up pus.
Keep changing every 2 minutes till the ear looks clean and dry. Repeat 3 times a day. Don’t put eardrops into the ear.
Ear infections can be treated with antibiotics or a minor surgery where a small tube is put into the ear drum (tympanostomy) to prevent fluid from accumulating, and so prevent hearing loss which can affect speech development.
Removing the adenoids can also help some children. For ostosclerosis, the stirrup bone is replaced.
Hearing aids for children
When the cause of a child’s hearing loss can’t be reversed, treatment involves using a hearing aid.
Hearing aids are available for kids as five months and are in the shape of a clip that goes onto the vest pocket.
For older children hearing aids can be worn behind the ear. After 14 when the ear is fully grown, the hearing aid can be inserted inside the ear to be almost invisible.
Cochlear implant (devices placed in the inner ear by an ENT surgeon to stimulate the auditory nerve with an electrical current in response to sounds) are used for children with a severe deficits.
Simple tips to keep your kids ears safe
Never use ear buds to clean a child’s ears, because they can cause infection. Use a corner of a towel instead. If you feel they are blocked with wax your doctor will give you prescription drops.
Never blow into your baby’s ear.
Don’t expose your child to cigarette smoke.
Check out ear aches with your doctor or visit the best hospitals in your city. If left untreated they can cause hearing loss.
Insist on earplugs for swimming. Water from poorly treated swimming pools can harbor nasty things, which can harm water logged ears and trigger infection.
Coax your teen to wear ear plugs at a noisy party. Demonstrate how he can hear the music but can block out harmful volume levels.
Ask him to take 10-minute break every hour when exposed to loud music.
After a two hour concert at 100 dB, insist 16 hours rest for the ears, to avoid hearing loss.
Don’t sit or stand near speakers. Ensure that earphones are kept at reasonable sound levels, which means that he can hear someone who is talking to him.
Disallow mobile phones till 12, after which he can use the speaker.
Over doing weight training in teens can rupture the pressure release membranes in the ear, causing hearing problems.
Slightly or moderately hard of hearing kids need primary lip reading instruction, speech correction and a hearing aid, with which they can fit comfortably into a regular school.
Children who are more severely hearing challenged, learn to communicate with others in a special school for deaf.
You need to start training programmes even in infancy, when the child’s capabilities are flexible, they are eager to learn and make best use of their other senses.
Today, deaf children are taught in a combination of sign language, finger spelling, lip reading and speech training, so that they can communicate efficiently in all scenarios.
Encourage a sense of pride in your child in achievements such as craft, computers, cricket, whatever strikes her. Like every other kid, a hearing challenged child can be successful and satisfied.