Hearing plays a major role in speech, communication, learning, and language development. Unfortunately, hearing loss among children is common than you may think. There are several causes of hearing loss in children. This can be congenital (present at birth), or it can be acquired (occurs after birth). It is important that you know some of the signs of hearing loss in children because when left untreated, hearing loss can cause significant emotional and developmental problems to your child.
There are several things that can cause congenital hearing loss, but it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause. According to Harvard Medical School, in almost half of all hearing loss cases in children, the cause is often genetic. This means that it is inherited from one of the parents who may or may not have a hearing problem. Other causes that are not hereditary in nature include prenatal infections, illnesses, and conditions that occur at the time of birth. Hearing loss that occurs after birth may have several causes. It may be caused by a condition, disease, or injury.
Other Causes of Hearing Loss in Children
This is a type of infection that occurs in the middle of the ear. The Eustachian tubes in young children aren’t fully formed. This causes fluid buildup behind the eardrum, and it can cause infection. Although it’s often painless, the fluid buildup can cause hearing problems when it stays there for a short time. If the fluid remains there for a long time, otitis media can cause permanent hearing loss.
Illness or injury
Young children can permanently lose their hearing ability to illnesses such as encephalitis, meningitis, measles, the flu, and chickenpox. Head injuries, some medications, loud noises, and some medications can also cause permanent hearing loss.
Signs of Hearing Loss in Children
Be alert for situations when your child isn’t responding to sound appropriately because it may be a sign of hearing loss. In some cases, it may be difficult to detect mild hearing loss in your child, especially hearing loss in one ear. Keep in mind that even a mild form of hearing loss can negatively affect your child’s ability to communicate and learn. Although the most common sign of hearing loss in a child is delayed development of language and speech, there are other signs, including:
- Not being aware that a person who is out of view is talking
- Sitting near the TV when the volume is high
- Being startled when they discover that their name has been called out
- Increasing the volume of the stereo or TV to unreasonably high levels
- Not responding to loud sounds
Tips on How to Protect Your Child From Hearing Loss
Avoid loud noises
Although hearing loss is often common among the elderly, it can also happen to the young. According to the NHS, prolonged exposure to loud sounds is the main cause of all hearing loss. This means that it is easy to prevent.
Loud sounds can damage the hearing ability of your young ones. Additionally, the amount of time spent listening is also important. Children and adolescents can safely listen to sounds at 85 dB (decibels) for a span of 8 hours per day. This is similar to the volume of city traffic. When the volume of a smartphone or tablet is turned up, the blare can exceed 105 dB. This sound intensity can cause damage to the ears in less than five minutes. Therefore, if you can hear the sound of your child’s earpiece when you’re standing just a few inches from them, you should know that the volume is dangerously loud.
Make use of sound-level meter applications
Generally, it can be difficult to judge the right sound levels on your own. Fortunately, some applications can help you with that. A sound meter application is used to measure noise levels and help you and your children to maintain safe noise levels. These applications aren’t regulated, which means you have to take your time to choose one that actually works.
Protect their hearing in case of loud events and activities
To protect your child’s hearing during some loud activities, for example, sports events or gigs, inform your children and adolescents to do the following:
- Move as far away as possible from the source of loud noise like loudspeakers.
- After exposure to loud sounds, allow their ears 18 hours to recover.
- Tell them to give their ears breaks of about 15 minutes from noise.
- Invest in earplugs. Reusable earplugs can reduce the music volume without stifling it.
Purchase safe kids’ headphones
Keeping tabs on the volume levels is the easiest thing. The next most difficult thing is to get your child to turn down the volume when it’s too loud. Purchasing the right headphone will help make this a less stressful task. Other items you should consider purchasing include:
Isolating earbuds: Unlike traditional earbuds that are poor in blocking out ambient sounds, isolating or occluding earbuds form a tight seal in the ear canal to block out other sounds. This means that your child won’t have to turn up the volume to mask the surrounding sounds. However, remember that these earbuds block out all other sounds, including warning sounds like car horns. Therefore, they may not be good for your child if they tend to listen to music outside.
Over-the-ear headphones: According to Cnet, over-the-ear headphones are more comfortable compared to earbuds. Although most parents consider them to be better than earbuds because they don’t get close to the eardrum, their large size can deliver a higher volume of sounds. Therefore, you will have to monitor the sound levels.
Volume-limiting headphones: There are volume-limiting versions of both earbuds and over-the-ear headphones. These devices minimize the sound to levels below dangerous levels. These are a great option if your kids tend to crank up the volume.
Seek TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) Treatment
Temporomandibular Joint can cause tinnitus, ear pain, and even hearing loss. TMJ connects the lower mandible or jaw to the temporal bone in front of the ear. There are also facial muscles that control chewing and are attached to the lower jaw. TMJ can occur when a jaw is locked in a certain position, or it is difficult to open. Sometimes, you may hear a popping sound when biting.
If your child has signs of hearing loss and you suspect it is related to the TMJ disorder, check with your physician. Hearing loss caused by TMJ is accompanied by tinnitus, tmd and ear pain, and ear fullness. However, your child won’t show any signs of ear infection. Your dentist or doctor may have to take a panoramic X-ray to confirm the diagnosis. The X-ray will also enable your doctor or dentist to look at the TMJ, the jaws, and teeth to ensure that no other issues are causing these symptoms.
TMJ treatment can help restore your child’s hearing loss and also relieve other ear-related symptoms. However, treatment will vary depending on the cause of the TMJ disorder. Your physician or dentist may recommend that you purchase a splint or mouth guard to help the jaw muscles relax and recover. Sometimes, the physician may recommend physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around the jaw. The dentist will also prescribe some medications like pain relievers and muscle relaxants. Rarely will a physician refer your child to an oral and maxillofacial surgeon to repair damage to the TMJ.
Get a Hearing Test
There are several causes of hearing loss, and you should get a hearing test immediately if you are worried that your child may be losing their hearing ability. The earlier the hearing loss is discovered, the earlier a solution can be discovered. It’s also important that you take your child for regular hearing checks (at least once a year), especially if they are at a higher risk of hearing loss – for example if they always have earbuds or headphones on them.