Hearing loss or hearing impairment is a condition when an individual loses his or her ability to hear sounds partially or totally in one or both the ears. The problem is generally considered to be a major one among adults and elderly. But, it is equally common among infants as well.

The loss of the ability to hear at the time of birth or after birth is becoming a common phenomenon to be seen and observed all around the globe. It is estimated that around a quarter or half of the profound or severe issues in hearing occurs due to genetic or hereditary causes. Before opting for the treatment of acoustic loss among children, get informed about the various types of loss of acoustic ability that occurs in the young ones and the reasons that are responsible for the same.

Types of Hearing Loss in Children:

A) Based on the age of onset of losing acoustic power, the loss of hearing can be -

  • Congenital Hearing Loss – which is present since birth
  • Acquired Hearing Loss – Acoustic issue occurs at any point of time during the developing years but is not present since birth.

B) Based on where the acoustic issues are located it can be of:

  • Conductive Hearing Loss – The loss of audiometric ability that occurs due to problems in outer and middle ear is called conductive acoustic issues.
  • Sensorineural Hearing Loss –Loss of audiometric ability that occurs due to a problem in inner ear is known as Sensorineural Loss. This kind of issue is permanent in nature.
  • Mixed Hearing Loss – Acoustic loss that occurs due to a problem in both outer or middle ear as well as inner ear.

Being a critical component to speech and language development, communication, literacy, and learning, hearing becomes mandatory for children. In absence of the ability of this sensory organ, it becomes extremely difficult for the children to cope up with the society and to deal with the regular educational curriculum followed by others.

Causes of Hearing Loss in Children

Loss of audiometric ability among children can be caused due to genetic, non-genetic factors and acquired factors.

Genetic Factor:

Genetic factors also known as the hereditary factors is considered to be the root cause of more than 50% of all acoustic issue caused among individuals. This hereditary problem at times shows its symptoms at birth itself and is also known for affecting the individuals in the later part of their life.

Most of the genetic loss can be described as autosomal recessive and autosomal dominant, some of the ways through which the trait or disorder passes down through families. Other, rare types of this audiometric loss include the X-linked (related to the sex chromosomes) or the mitochondrial inheritance patterns, which affects the individual’s life.

Nongenetic Factors:

The nongenetic factors account for about 25% of the loss of auditory. Some of the nongenetic factors that cause loss of acoustic ability among individuals include:

  • Premature birth
  • Maternal infections such as rubella, herpes simplex virus or cytomegalovirus
  • Injuries during birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Lack of oxygen or anoxia
  • Maternal diabetes
  • Toxemia during pregnancy
  • Toxins, including drugs and alcohol consumed by the mother during pregnancy
  • Inner ear malformations
  • Complications associated with the Rh factor in the blood/jaundice
  • Outer/ middle ear malformations (Atresia, stenosis)

Acquired Factors:

Acquired loss of audiometric power as the name suggest is acquired by the children at any point during their lifetime after their birth. The condition might be temporary or permanent. The conditions that causes acquired acoustic issues in children include:

  • Measles
  • Ear Infections
  • Noise Exposure
  • Chicken pox
  • Mumps
  • Ototoxic medications
  • Meningitis
  • Head Injury
  • Accident
  • Exposure to sudden outburst of noise
  • Encephalitis

Treatment of Hearing Loss in Children

Losing any sensory organ as a child does mean losing childhood permanently. It is thus recommended to take the child immediately to the specialist in a professional clinic in order to help them get treated as soon as possible. The treatment procedure might vary among children depending on several factors which include their type of audiometric loss, their age and the level of impairment.

The first step towards the treatment of hearing loss is the evaluation and diagnosis of the children, gauging their level of hearing impairment. The Hearing Loss in children can be treated through different ways, depending on their type of acoustic loss, level of impairment and age. The several ways of treatment includes:

Treatment of Hearing Loss through Hearing Aids

Joint Commission on Infant Hearing (JCIH, 2007) recommends children with suspected hearing loss should have their hearing loss confirmed by 3 months of age and that amplification in terms of hearing aids or cochlear implant should be fitted by 6 month of age. It thus helps overcoming the impact of hearing loss.

Best Suitable Hearing Aid For Children:

The Behind-The-Ear or BTE is the type of aid that is mostly recommended for the infants and the young children. The reason being as follows:

  •  BTE’s can fit in with various types of ear molds.
  •  Since ear molds are easily detachable from BTE’s they can be made again and again as the child grows.
  •  Also as the ear molds are easily detachable they can be cleaned easily.
  •  Parents can easily cross check the functionality of the hearing aid and can make necessary arrangements.
  •  BTE’s can accommodate wide variety of Hearing Loss.
  •  It can be easily connected with other listening devices like DAI and telecoil.
  •  Ear molds in BTE can be made of soft materials hence it is becomes very comfortable for children.

Hearing Aid Features:

The technological features which are essential and which makes the device extremely friendly for the children are:

  • Digital Noise Reduction
  • Directional Microphones
  • Frequency Lowering Strategies
  • Signal-Processing Features

Treatments of Hearing Loss through Cochlear Implants

A Cochlear implant is a medical electronic device that is used for replacing the function of the damaged inner ear. It bypasses the damaged hair cells of the inner ear and helps to provide sound signals to the brain.

When Is Cochlear Implants Suggested For Children?

The decision of using cochlear implant as the treatment of acoustic loss among children depends on the evaluation of their medical, audiological and psychological or habilitative condition. This treatment is used for children who suffer from:

  • Auditory Neuropathy/dyssynchrony
  • Bilateral Severe-to-profound sensorineural hearing loss
  • History of limited or no benefit from binaural hearing aids which are coupled with intensive auditory training
  • Absence of medical contraindications and other medical issues

Treatment of Hearing Loss through Hearing Assistive Technology: Personal FM Systems

Hearing Assistive Technology or HAT system is known for equipping the individual with the right kind of ability to overcome the negative consequences of the background noise and reverberation effect that interferes with the optimal audibility. Thus, improving the ability of the children to communicate and gain access to communication in adverse listening environments.

When Hearing Assistive Technology Is Suggested For Children?

When it comes to the use of HAT systems in children, the degree of audiometric loss is the major thing that is looked upon. Another factor that affects the selection of the children for the use of this system includes:

  • The degree of loss among the children
  • Situations such as hyperactivity, behavior, cognition and auditory issues
  • Technology issues
  • Ability to use the device and the financial resources

Treatments of Hearing Loss through Other Devices (Osseointegrated Devices, Auditory Brainstem Implants)

Osseointegrated Devices are considered for the children with the permanent bilateral, mixed and single-sided hearing loss. FDA has not approved the surgical implantations of bone-anchored aids in children within 5 years of age; however, they are permitted to wear the external processor until they are old enough for implantation.

Auditory Brainstem Implants is used and is recommended for the people who do not have a cochlea or auditory nerve. This implant helps in providing electrical stimulations of the cochlear nucleus in the brainstem.

Treatment of Hearing Loss through Pediatric Audiologic Re/Habilitation (AR)

The Pediatric Audiologic Re/habilitation (AR) therapy is provided for the children to help them improve their speech, language and communication skills and to develop a strong hold on their auditory behaviors. It enables the audiologists to use the varied form of communication methods which include the listening and spoken language, cued speech and language and sign language to help them with the right kind of modality of communication that they require.