Because hearing loss is difficult to detect in small children who can’t yet speak, the prevalence is not precisely known. Based on different studies, the CDC estimates the number to be either 1 to 3 or 2 to 5 in 1,000 children. Treatments and speech interventions have improved dramatically in recent years, making it much easier for parents to help kids with hearing loss learn and develop without serious setbacks, but it is important to identify hearing loss as early as possible in order to set kids on the path to success.
While the cause of newborn hearing loss is not always identifiable, it’s estimated to be genetic in about 50% of cases. Genetic hearing loss can appear on its own or as part of a syndrome, or cluster of symptoms. In other cases, the hearing loss is not genetic but sustained as a result of a birth complication, or else in utero, due to the mother’s illness, infection or substance abuse.
Congenital Versus Acquired Hearing Loss
Hearing loss with which children are born is known as congenital hearing loss, while that which appears during childhood is known as acquired hearing loss. Causes of acquired hearing loss include injury to the eardrum, untreated ear infections, disease, exposure to certain medicines or toxic chemicals and exposure to loud noise.
Newborn babies have their hearing tested right away, but infant hearing loss is relatively easy to miss, so it is important to talk to your pediatrician if your baby doesn’t startle at loud noises, respond to their name, appear to enjoy being read to, or coo and babble as they grow. Check a hearing and communicative development checklist regularly in order to make sure that your baby is meeting milestones. Older children with suspected hearing loss will be administered more participatory speech and hearings tests in order to assess their capabilities and progress.
Early intervention for hearing difficulties in small children is key to ensuring their healthy development. Various treatments and interventions might include speech therapy, cochlear implants, ear tubes or medications for chronic ear infections, hearing aids or learning special language skills. Occasionally, children with audio processing disorder are misdiagnosed with hearing loss and might require a different set of interventions.
Treatment of hearing loss in children has come a long way, both in terms of available tools and therapies, as well as in cultural sensitivity. Getting on top of it as early as possible is important for kids’ social and neuro-psychological development, so consult your pediatrician at the first sign of concern.