What Most Often Causes Hearing Loss in Children?
Hearing loss in children can vary, but some causes can be prevented with medical care. Middle and outer ear infections are the leading cause of hearing loss in children, with 75 percent of infants and children experiencing this type of infection by age three.
Learn more about ear infections and their implications below.
What are ear infections?
Common middle ear infections occur when the area behind the eardrum is inflamed. Infected or uninfected fluid buildup and fluctuated hearing generally accompanies this type of inflammation. Infections can range from mild to severe. Mild ear infections occur when uninfected fluid builds up and hearing decreases for a short period of time. Severe ear infections can cause thick, infected buildup, pain, fever and/or permanent hearing loss.
How is hearing loss caused?
The eardrum sends the ossicles—three tiny bones in the middle ear—sound vibrations to transmit to the inner ear. When fluid builds up in the middle ear, vibrations cannot be transmitted efficiently, resulting in hearing loss. If a child experiences multiple ear infections, there is a greater chance of hearing loss. Damage can also occur on the nerve, causing long-term or permanent hearing loss.
Why are children more prone to ear infections?
A child’s Eustachian tube—from the middle ear to the back of the throat—is more horizontal and smaller in than an adult’s. That means swollen adenoids and other infections can result in ear infections more easily in children than in adults.
What symptoms should I look for?
Two of the most common symptoms of infection are ear pain and fever, but there are many other symptoms that indicate an ear infection, including:
- Pulling at or scratching ears
- Needing the TV to be louder than normal
- Misunderstanding what people are saying
- Abnormal irritability
My child has an ear infection—now what?
Don’t worry—there are treatments to prevent damage to your child’s ear, so see a physician if you notice any of the symptoms above. If the infection is bacterial, the physician will most likely prescribe antibiotics. He or she may also recommend a painkiller to relieve the symptoms.
If an ear infection lasts abnormally long, the infection is severe or your child gets recurring ear infections, the physician may want to poke a very small hole in the eardrum to drain the fluids or insert a tube into the eardrum that will drain fluids from the ear. The tubes will also relieve pan, improve a child’s hearing and may reduce the number of ear infections he or she contracts.
Sources: HealthyHearing.com, Healthline