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Hearing loss in children: symptoms, causes, treatment

About 1.5 out of every 1000 newborns are already affected by hearing loss. In other words, their perception and processing of acoustic information is limited from birth. Hearing loss can also occur later in childhood and adolescence for various reasons. These range from infections to excessive noise exposure. Especially at a young age, treatment of hearing loss is essential to prevent developmental delays or impairments.

Recognizing hearing loss in babies and children: Symptoms

The first sign of possible hearing loss is the absence of startleat loud noises from 4-6 weeks of age. From 6 months of age, your child should also be actively responding to speech and trying to locate sources of noise. As the child progresses, there are several other signs to watch for, depending on the degree of hearing loss: In the case of mild hearing loss, children often do not hear softly spoken and whispered speech well. In the case of moderate to profound hearing loss, only loud sounds are audible. If there is complete hearing loss, only vibration is perceptible by the children. Likewise, conspicuously loud talking, frequent comprehension questions, and no attempt to repeat after parents are early signs of hearing loss.

To detect hearing loss in babies and children as early as possible and initiate appropriate measures, should all examinations of early detection perceived. Already at the U1 a first hearing screening is carried out, however, a positive result of this does not automatically mean that in the later course no more damage to the hearing can be detected. Therefore, if you observe the signs described, be sure to consult a doctor for clarification.

Hearing loss in babies: causes

In babies, 50% of hearing loss is hereditary, but incorrect or delayed development in the area of the hearing organ can occur both during pregnancy and during birth. Responsible for this are, on the one hand, specific genes or genetic defects, which also occur in combination with other diseases, e.g. of the thyroid, heart, or eyes.Diseases of the motherof viral infections, syphilis, metabolic diseases, or the abuse of alcohol and drugs during pregnancy can also lead to congenital hearing loss in babies. In addition, premature birth, mechanical damage caused by or lack of oxygen in the birth process, jaundice, and cerebral hemorrhage all have a potentially negative effect on hearing. After birth, the risk is primarily inflammation of the middle ear or meninges, as well as typical childhood infections such as measles, mumps, and rubella.

Causes of hearing loss in childhood

The causes of hearing loss in childhood may be due to infections, but may also be due to consequences of otitis media, colds, or enlarged adenoids. Consequence can be an accumulation of secretion in the tympanic cavity, which in turn can cause tubal obstruction. If this persists for too long, a pathological change in the mucous membranes takes place. If drug treatment fails in this condition, a tympanostomy tube is inserted into the eardrum to provide permanent ventilation and dry out the middle ear. After a few months, the tube is expelled on its own. The hearing impairment is therefore only temporary. In adolescents, there has been an increase in hearing disorders in recent years, which are attributed to too high noise exposure from music.

Important: In order to avoid hearing damage to the sensitive hearing of children in advance, preventive care should be taken to ensure adequate hearing protection. Already a volume starting from 85 decibels can represent a danger for the child hearing. Once damage occurs, it is difficult to repair. Therefore, be sure not to expose your children to excessively noisy environments or to use appropriate hearing protection.

Consequences of hearing loss in children

For children, treatment of hearing loss is essential to ensure regular development of language and social development. Because much of a child's language acquisition occurs through linguistic models and imitation, listening to linguistic input is necessary. The earlier intervention is undertaken in this regard, the better, because fundamental foundations of further development are set in the first months and years of life. Another possible consequence of missing treatment is the delay of cognitive development resulting from the limited discovery of the world with all senses. In addition, even mild hearing loss is noticeable in school performance. This can be attributed to the fact that school is a highly interactive place, where knowledge is primarily conveyed verbally.

Treatment of hearing loss in children and babies

Which treatment has the highest chance of success depends on the cause of the hearing impairment. In the case of hearing loss caused by infections, temporary, medication treatment is usually possible. In the case of genetic or other causes, the fitting of a suitable hearing aid usually provides relief. You can read about the special features of children's hearing aids and how much they cost here. In rarer cases, insertion of acochlear implant is recommended, such as when anatomical or auditory conditions prevent wearing a hearing aid.

Hearing loss in children: Surgery

Certain conditions prevent the use of a conventional hearing aid and may require the use of an implant. One option here is the cochlear implant (CI), which takes over the function of the inner ear and transmits acoustic information to the brain. So while hearing aids tend to amplify volume, the CI is instrumental in the conduction process in hearing. However, a cochlear implant is not a miracle solution. It takes time to get used to the device and requires intensive training in using and hearing with it. Factors that influence success with the CI include age at implantation and the degree of hearing loss.

Hearing loss in children: What parents can do

When a child has hearing loss, it is shocking news to most parents at first. Emotional reactions are plausible and allowed to be. However, it is highly relevant that you be the best possible support for your child.

  1. Inform yourself: The more knowledgeable we are about an issue, the less threatening it seems. The more knowledgeable you are about hearing loss, the better you will be able to understand and support your child.
  2. Take counseling: When diagnosed  "hearing loss" a lot of questions may arise. Don't be afraid to seek counseling to make your child's life easier.
  3. Be open: Being honest with your child and others about hearing loss usually helps increase outside understanding. Your child will have fewer problems in everyday life if those around him or her are aware of the special needs.
  4. Accept, Involve, Support: Accept your child's specialness and always make him feel supported and involved. Take time to talk with your child and find out where you can support him or her. For example, agree on signals (e.g., handshakes) that your child can use to indicate to you that he or she has not understood something. This will allow you to respond subtly and appropriately.
  5. Be patient: Be careful to adjust your linguistic input so that your child understands you as accurately as possible. Speak loudly and clearly, and patiently repeat your statements when asked so as not to alienate your child.
  6. Use technical aids: In addition to hearing aids, there are a variety of technical accessories that can enrich your child's daily life. Educate yourself and don't be afraid to reach out for these aids.
  7. Use additional therapy: In addition to hearing care, take advantage of additional therapy services. For example, speech therapy will help support your child's speech development.
  8. Use exchange opportunities: For parents, the diagnosis of "hearing loss" in their children can be an unexpected challenge. Through numerous exchange opportunities, parents can network, support and inform each other.
  9. Promote your child's self-confidence: Bringing normalcy to dealing with hearing loss helps your child maintain his or her own self-confidence. At school, your child may well be met with questions and reservations about a hearing aid. To avoid the formation of uncertainties, parental support and education is therefore particularly crucial.