Trouble Hearing in Children
Newborns, infants, toddlers and older children each show a variety of signs of hearing loss depending on their age, including not responding to unexpected loud noises, not understanding simple phrases and having problems with reading,spelling and math.
Your child's healthcare team
Your child's care team will include some or all of these key members:
Audiologist: A specialist who tests for and identifies hearing problems. He or she also helps find solutions for hearing loss, such as hearing aids or other devices.
Otolaryngologist or ENT specialist: A healthcare provider who diagnoses and treats possible problems of the ear
Types of Hearing Loss in Children
Conductive hearing loss is common in children and can affect one or both ears. It results when sound becomes partially or fully blocked in the outer or middle ear. This could be caused by fluid or wax buildup or as the result of infection, abnormal bone growth, or an object stuck in the ear. Conductive hearing loss is often temporary and may be improved with medical or surgical procedures. And once the blockage or problem is taken care of, hearing often returns to normal.
Sensorineural hearing loss is due to problems with the inner ear or damage to the hair cells or nerves inside the inner ear. To hear properly, these hair cells and nerves must process and carry sound to the brain. The brain then senses what we “hear.” With sensorineural hearing loss, the hair cells or nerves are damaged and do not send the signals needed for hearing to the brain. Sensorineural hearing loss is usually permanent. So treatment involves using devices that help the child hear as well as possible.
A less common problem is auditory processing disorder (APD). APD occurs when the ear works properly, but the brain doesn’t interpret sound correctly. To hear words correctly, the brain must recognize and interpret the sounds that are sent to the brain. With APD, something keeps the brain from properly processing or interpreting the sounds that make up a word or words. So subtle differences between sounds in words cannot be heard and words are misheard. It is unknown why APD occurs.
With auditory neuropathy spectrum disorder (ANSD), the inner ear works, but there is a problem that keeps the brain from recognizing and interpreting sound correctly. This causes words to be misheard. Sounds may also fade in and out. The cause of AN is unknown. Scientists think it may be related to problems with the hearing nerve, but more research needs to be done. There are hearing tests available to check for ANSD that can be done by your child's audiologist.
These hearing devices may help your child:
Hearing aids. These are electronic devices that help make sound louder.
Cochlear implants. These are surgically placed devices that help children with severe or profound hearing loss.