Most children with hearing loss are born to parents who have normal hearing. That means the entire family can have a lot to learn about living with the condition.
You may find out your child has hearing loss when he’s born, or he might be diagnosed later in childhood. Either way, the most important thing to do is to get the right treatment as early as possible. If you understand more about the condition, you can get your child the help he needs so he can learn, play, and keep up with other kids his age. Here’s what you need to know.
What Causes Hearing Loss in Children?
The causes of hearing loss in children include:
Otitis media. This middle ear infection happens often in young children because the tubes that connect the middle ear to the nose, called Eustachian tubes, are not fully formed. Fluid builds up behind the eardrum and can get infected. Even if there is no pain or infection, the fluid can affect hearing if it stays there, at least for a short time. In severe and long-lasting cases, otitis media can lead to permanent hearing loss.
Problems at birth. Some children are born with hearing problems. Most of the time, they’re tied to a child’s genes. Others happen during pregnancy or from prenatal care. Hearing loss can also happen when a pregnant woman has medical problems like diabetes or preeclampsia. A baby born prematurely is at higher risk, too.
Illness or injury. Young children can lose their hearing after they get some illnesses, including meningitis, encephalitis, measles, chickenpox, and the flu. Head injuries, very loud noises, and some medications can also cause hearing loss.
Symptoms of Hearing Loss in Children
Unless your child was diagnosed with hearing loss at birth, you’ll probably be the first person to notice if he has trouble picking up on sounds. Some early signs of a problem include:
- Not reacting to loud noises
- Not responding to your voice
- Making simple sounds that taper off
A child with otitis media may also:
- Pull or rub an ear
- Be constantly cranky for no clear reason
- Stop paying attention and have little energy
- Not understand directions
- Often ask for the TV or radio to be louder
- Have a fever
- Have ear pain
If you notice these signs in your child, talk about them with his doctor.