Thursday 12 March 2015

5 Common Hearing Problems in Children, and How They Can Be Treated

Diagnosing hearing problems in young children as early as possible is the key to treating them successfully. However, it's not always easy to identify hearing problems in infants, as young children have no effective way of communicating. There are five relatively common causes of hearing difficulty in children, and early diagnosis through infanthearing tests usually means the long-term effects can be managed more effectively.

1. Genetic hearing problems
Hearing loss caused by genetic problems is often part of a wider 'syndrome', and in many cases, there are no known cures. For instance, Waardenburg syndrome involves very particular facial features such as a wider than normal space between the eyes and a widened nose bride. Unfortunately, hearing loss is also associated with Waardenburg syndrome. These symptoms are present from birth, and hearing loss can be anything from mild to non-progressive. Other genetic causes of hearing problems include crouzon syndrome and the mutation of the connexin 26 gene. In some cases, hearing can be improved with a hearing aid or surgery.

2. Conductive hearing problems
A conductive hearing problem is related to a blockage in the canal that passes from the outer ear to the inner ear. This relatively common cause of childhood hearing loss is usually temporary. Once the cause of the blockage has been removed, hearing usually returns to normal.

Among the root causes of this particular issue include ear infections, common colds and a build-up of wax in the middle ear. However, there are also congenital conductive issues that can be the cause of childhood hearing loss. For instance, anatomical abnormalities can block the ear canal; they include congenitally fixed stapes, stenosis and microtia. These defects all have the potential to be fixed with surgical procedures, but fast action by a paediatric audiologist is usually essential.

3. Enlarged vestibular aqueducts
The vestibular aqueducts are the passages that connect the cranium with the inner ear. Babies are born with relatively wide and straight vestibular aqueducts, but they grow narrower with age, and they usually take on a 'J' shape. In a rare number of cases, however, the passage remains wide, which can lead to degenerative hearing loss. A CT scan may be ordered to identify any structural problems, and the child may be advised to avoid contact sports, as impacts to the head have the potential to make the condition worse.

4. Hearing problems related to childbirth complications
There are several complications during childbirth that have the potential to cause hearing problems in children. For instance, if a mother contracts syphilis, German measles or diabetes during pregnancy, the risk of their child being born with a hearing defect rises significantly. Babies born with an undeveloped hearing system may have profound hearing problems from birth. And premature babies who need feeding through nasal tubes are at an increased risk of infection, which can also lead to loss of hearing. The impact of these occurrences can vary, so thorough hearing tests conducted by paediatric audiologists are required in order to develop a treatment plan as quickly as possible.

5. Acquired hearing problems
There are various diseases and infections that have the potential to cause hearing loss in children. For instance, severe bouts of measles and chicken pox can cause permanent hearing problems unless treatment is administered quickly. Other causes include encephalitis, severe head trauma and a relatively common infection called otitis media - an inflammation of the ear that can lead to an accumulation of fluid.

If you suspect your child is suffering from hearing problems, it's important to seek expert medical assistance immediately. A fast diagnosis and the immediate start of treatment can, in many cases, completely reverse the effects of childhood hearing loss.

What a useful guest post from the Portland Hospital, thanks so much.

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