As difficult as it may be to imagine, hearing loss in children does occur. One survey found that hearing loss affects 15% of children in the US. And as you can well imagine, the sooner hearing loss is treated, the better your outcomes down the line. Studies have even shown that treating hearing loss before a baby reaches 6 months of age can have significantly better results down the line in terms of speech and language development. It’s not always easy to discern whether your child has hearing loss, so today we want to go over the causes and symptoms of hearing loss in children, and provide an overview of what treatment options are available. Before we get started, let’s go over what childhood hearing loss is.
Hearing Loss in Children: Definition
If a child can’t hear sounds below a certain decibel (dB) level, it is categorized as hearing loss. The lowest (mildest) threshold of determining hearing loss in a child is usually around 15 to 25 decibels, which means they can’t hear sound below 15-25 dB, roughly the sound of someone whispering. But children can have varying degrees of loss, 25-40 dB being mild, 41-60 dBs is moderate, and profound hearing loss is anything over 81 dB.
What’s important to note is that hearing loss is not just a loss of volume (dB), but it’s also a loss of pitch (or frequency). This means while some children may struggle to hear someone whispering, others may struggle to hear high-pitched sounds. This means a child who has moderate hearing loss may not be able to hear speech correctly, but they can easily hear a helicopter miles away.
Signs of hearing loss in toddlers and school-aged children
Not all children are born with hearing loss. Sometimes hearing loss in children develops later in life, so it’s important to keep an eye on your little ones to make sure you catch any developing hearing loss early on. Here are a few things to look for to see if your child is developing hearing loss:
- Difficulty understanding what is being said
- Your child sounds different, speaks differently than other children in the same age group
- Doesn’t answer when called
- Answers questions incorrectly because they didn’t understand
- Sits too close to the TV with the volume on too loud
- Has difficulty with school work
- Has problem articulating things
- Complains of ear pain, earaches, or loud noises
- Has difficulty understanding speech over the phone
- Asks “what?” several times a day
- Watches speakers very closely because they are lip reading
If you’ve noticed this behavior in your child, worry not, we can help! Set up an appointment with Dr. Caney, our pediatric audiologist, and we’ll perform a diagnostic hearing test to get down to the bottom of it! So, how can a child develop hearing loss?
Causes for hearing loss in children
There are a variety of causes that can lead to a child developing hearing loss as a toddler or school-age child, such as:
- A perforated eardrum, caused by a change in pressure, being exposed to a loud sound suddenly, like an explosion, or an injury to the eardrum, like poking a Q-tip too far into the ear.
- Otosclerosis or Meniere’s diseases
- Infections like meningitis, measles, mumps, or whooping cough
- A serious head injury
- Exposure to loud noise, causing noise-induced hearing loss
- Untreated or frequent ear infections
- Exposure to secondhand smoke or other toxins
Possible Treatment Options
There are a variety of treatment options available, and their use will mostly depend on the severity of the hearing loss experienced by your child. We will go over all these options in greater detail in a later post, but the basics are that depending on the severity, hearing loss in children can be treated with hearing aids, cochlear implants, and a combination of speech therapy or assistive listening devices. Bear in mind that hearing loss can also be temporary, which is why proper diagnostic testing is crucial so we can find out what is really going on.
The important thing to remember is that if you notice signs of hearing loss in your child, don’t panic, make an appointment with us instead! Who knows, the problem may be as simple as wax buildup (which we can remedy easily!), or a severe infection is causing temporary hearing loss. Whatever the reason, we’re here with you every step of the way.