In the United States, hearing loss is one of the most common afflictions among adults. Hearing loss in adults is often the result of exposure to loud noises in the workplace; however, the condition can also occur in children. So, what are the factors that contribute to hearing loss in young people and infants?
There can be many causes of hearing loss in an infant or child and they usually fall under two categories:
- Congenital Hearing Loss – Congenital hearing loss is hearing loss experienced either before or from birth. It can be caused by genetic factors, but may also occur due to injuries during the birthing process. Congenital hearing loss has also been attributed to infections contracted while the baby was in the utero.
- Acquired Hearing Loss – Acquired hearing loss is hearing loss that occurs after birth. In children, this type of hearing loss is caused by ear infections, including both bacterial and viral infections. Your child may also lose their hearing if they are exposed to loud noises at an early age. Head injuries have also been known to cause hearing loss in children.
Hearing Tests for Newborns and Children
It is a common practice for newborns to receive a hearing test before leaving the hospital. Hearing tests in infants consists of a screening process that monitors brain function and how it processes the hearing response. These tests are sometimes referred to as ABR tests or BAER. The abbreviation stands for “Auditory Brainstem Response”.
This ABR is designed to diagnose hearing loss in approximately 90 percent of infants, but there will be exceptions. In cases where a newborn experiences mild hearing loss, an ABR test may not detect it. Hearing screenings, in general, cannot accurately identify mild or even progressive hearing loss. Regular hearing tests are always suggested to fill this gap.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that hearing tests be performed at certain milestones throughout a child’s life. Milestones for hearing tests include when your child first starts attending school and every two years starting at age six. Hearing tests are also suggested one time during both middle and high school.
Signs of Hearing Loss in Children
Acquired hearing loss can occur at any time in your child’s life so regular hearing tests are very important. A child learns how to speak by listening to how other’s talk. A child who has trouble hearing will also display difficulties in learning how to speak or show developmental delays. You should always discuss any concerns you have with your family physician. Don’t ignore the signs.
Signs to watch out for include difficulty learning how to speak, poor attention span or behavior and difficulty with schoolwork. Some children may have a delay in response or lack the right response when spoken too. Always pay attention if a teacher or relative expresses concern.
All of the signs mentioned above may indicate that your child has a problem hearing or processing sound in his or her environment. If your child is showing any of these symptoms, consult your doctor. Hearing loss shouldn’t go unnoticed or untreated and the best way is through identification early on in life.