The first question many parents have when they learn their child has a hearing loss is, “How did this happen?” The following are some common causes of hearing loss.
Congenital Hearing Loss
Congenital hearing loss is any hearing loss that is present at birth. The cause can be genetic and hereditary, caused by issues during pregnancy or caused from an issue during the birthing process.
More than 50 percent of the time it is believed that genetic factors cause pediatric hearing loss. Genetic or hereditary hearing loss occurs when a gene from one or both of the parents impacts the development of the intricate process of hearing. Genetic issues can affect any portion of the outer, middle or inner ear, and can cause varying degrees of loss. Options for genetic forms of hearing loss vary widely and can range from hearing aids, medication, surgery, cochlear implants or no treatment at all. Your health care providers will help you in your search to determine the cause of your child’s hearing loss and what options are available for your child.
There are non-genetic factors that can potentially cause hearing loss before the birth of your child. Factors such as in utero infection, illnesses, toxins consumed by the mother during pregnancy or cytomegalovirus (CMV) can be passed on to a child in utero and may cause hearing loss. During the birthing process, procedures performed to save a baby’s life in an emergency, such as a ventilator or a strong antibiotic, can also affect hearing.
Acquired Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can occur after birth. There are several factors that can cause this to happen:
- Chronic ear infections, also called Otitis Media
- Ototoxic drugs (medications that can affect aspects of hearing)
- Diseases that affect hearing, (otosclerosis , Ménière’s Disease , meningitis , mumps, etc.)
- Head injury
- Perforated eardrum
Otitis Media is a common issue for many children and typically causes only temporary hearing loss. However, prolonged issues without treatment or repeated cases can affect hearing and cause more permanent damage.
Ototoxic drugs present different challenges because they are usually prescribed to treat serious problems, such as meningitis. Doctors should discuss with you the potential side effects of drugs, especially those that can affect hearing. Consult your physician before beginning any treatment.
Diseases that affect hearing are numerous and their impacts vary depending on the cause, severity and treatment duration. Your physician will work with you to understand treatment options and what their effects may be on your child’s hearing.
Head trauma can potentially have a dramatic effect on hearing, especially in children who are still growing. It is important that children wear appropriate protective equipment when playing sports or riding bikes.
Perforated eardrums can be caused by several factors including severe ear infections, head trauma or from the insertion of a foreign object, like a small toy or pen. Oftentimes a perforated eardrum will heal with proper treatment and hearing loss is only temporary. However, caution should always be used when doing anything around the ear, and objects like cotton swabs or ear candles should never be inserted into the ear.
In many cases, you may never really know why your child is deaf or hard of hearing. It is important to act quickly to confirm a diagnosis, and ensure your child has access to language as early and frequently as possible.