World Hearing Day 2016: Childhood Hearing Loss
The theme of this year’s World Hearing Day is childhood hearing loss and what can be done about it. Raising awareness is paramount. Once parents know what’s at stake taking effective action should follow naturally.
Causes of childhood hearing loss
Hearing loss can be present at birth or in early childhood (congenital) or develop while the child matures (acquired). The most common causes are as follows:
- Genetic disorders
- Birth injuries (e.g., lack of oxygen during birth)
- Premature birth
- In-utero infections
- Maternal diabetes
- Maternal ingestion or exposure to toxic substances
- Ear infections
- Diseases (e.g., measles)
- Ear-specific conditions (e.g., “glue” ear)
- Noise-induced hearing loss
- Ototoxic (lit., poisonous to the ear) medications
Many of these causes of childhood hearing loss can be prevented. Those that cannot be avoided can often be treated. Either way, detecting and addressing hearing concerns is extremely important to a child’s overall development.
Hearing affects development
The goal of parents and physicians should identification of any hearing concerns as soon as possible, so that steps can be taken to mitigate further damage and avoid developmental delays. A newborn hearing screening is crucial and can be administered shortly after birth.
Three key areas of childhood development can be hampered by hearing loss: communication, education, and socialization. Early intervention (wearing hearing aids, language acquisition strategies) are vital for helping children with hearing loss learn to communicate effectively and understand others. Studies have shown that children who receive hearing interventions as early as six-months-old are more likely to reach the same level of language acquisition as kids with normal hearing by the time they are five. They are also more likely to do well in school, particularly when they have access to assistive technologies, and find it easier to form social bonds with kids of all hearing abilities.
Some hearing loss is avoidable
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that approximately 60 percent of childhood hearing loss is preventable. Many diseases known to damage hearing in-utero or during childhood can be prevented with vaccinations, such as measles, mumps, rubella, and meningitis. Ototoxic medications, such as certain chemotherapies, can be identified and whenever possible avoided or closely managed by primary care physicians working in concert with hearing care professionals.
As for noise, active kids and teens should not be exposed to very loud sounds, and taught to wear hearing protection if such exposure is anticipated, from a very young age. Use of headphones and earbuds should be monitored by parents to make sure music or video game soundtracks are set well below maximum output capacity. Listening time should be limited to one continuous hour or less, followed by a break of equal or greater length.
What can be done to treat a child’s hearing difficulties?
Whether your child has hearing loss from birth or develops challenges while growing up, parents can take the following actions to reduce its impact on their ability to communicate, learn, and socialize:
- Confirm your child has received a newborn hearing screening or is tested in infancy
- If hearing loss is found, utilize interventions as early as possible (six months or younger, ideally), including use of hearing aids and communication therapies
- Make sure your child has all the assistance possible at school, including access to FM/loop systems, classroom aids, language development programs, and closed-captioning during audiovisual presentations
- Educate yourself on the risks posed by noise and ototoxic medications, and the steps that can be taken to avoid initial or further damage to your child’s hearing
Rules for Commenting: Please limit your comments to the blog topic at hand. If you need to contact us about a product, technical issue or other experience you’ve had, use the contact form. We reserve the right to delete off-topic, abusive language, spam, or other comments deemed inappropriate. Have fun!