Although hearing loss is something we often associate with getting older, it’s a problem that is increasingly affecting children and young adults at an early age. Whilst studies have indicated that just over one in one thousand children are born with some sort of hearing loss, young Australians are increasingly at risk of acquiring hearing loss as a result of issues such as noise exposure. If you recognise the signs of hearing loss in your child, it’s important to organise a hearing test with your local audiologist before their hearing problem has a long-term impact on their learning and development.
Acquired hearing loss
Acquired hearing loss is when hearing loss occurs after birth. This can result from a variety of different causes such as noise exposure, infections, diseases or injury. Some of the most common causes of acquired hearing loss in children are:
- Otitis media (infection of the middle ear) – Otitis media is one of the most common ear infections seen in young children. In severe cases, otitis media can trigger hearing problems.
- Obstructions of the ear canal – Acquired hearing loss can be triggered by obstructions in the ear canal. This can result from excessive ear wax or foreign objects lodged in the ear.
- Head or ear injuries – Head or ear injuries, such as perforated ear drums, can also cause problems with the auditory system in children.
- Infections or diseases – Infections such as meningitis, measles and mumps have been linked to causes of acquired hearing loss.
- Ototoxic drugs – Consumption of certain antibiotics which are classed as ototoxic drugs, have been linked to auditory problems.
- Noise exposure – Excessive noise exposure has been linked to cases of both temporary and permanent hearing loss in children and teenagers. In fact, it is thought exposure to loud noises is responsible for the growing number of hearing problems amongst younger generations in Australia and worldwide.
Congenital hearing loss
As opposed to acquired hearing loss, congenital hearing loss indicates the hearing problem is present in the child at birth. This type of hearing loss can be triggered by both genetic and non-genetic causes, with genetic factors accounting for more than 50% of cases.
- Prenatal infections: If the mother has suffered from an infection such as measles or toxoplasmosis during pregnancy, this can cause hearing loss in the child at birth.
- Ototoxic medication: Just as a child can acquire hearing loss as a result of ototoxic medications after birth, they can also suffer from auditory problems if the mother has consumed such medications during pregnancy.
- Birth complications: Complications such as lack of oxygen at birth or prematurity (which can in turn require life-sustaining drugs) can trigger hearing loss in children.
- Genetic hearing loss: Autosomal recessive hearing loss is the most common form of genetic congenital hearing loss. Although neither parent may have hearing loss, this is when each parent carries a recessive gene that is then inherited by the child. Another form – autosomal dominant hearing loss – is when one parent carries a dominant gene for hearing loss which then gets passed on to the child. Typically, this parent may suffer from hearing loss themselves.
- Genetic syndromes: Hearing loss can be a common characteristic of genetic syndromes such as Down syndrome, Usher syndrome and Treacher Collins syndrome.
Hearing tests for children
Leaving a child’s hearing loss untreated can have a long-lasting impact on their social, emotional and academic development. If you suspect your child may be suffering from hearing loss, you should organise a hearing test with the Perth hearing specialists at The Art of Hearing clinics. Our experienced audiologists will be able to test your child’s hearing to identify potential solutions and ensure their quality of life is not compromised by their hearing problem.