Hearing Loss in Infants - Diagnosis and Treatment - Health Education - DesiMD Healthcare - India

Hearing Loss in Infants : Diagnosis and Treatment

Dr.Surya Rao Poodipeddi profile Authored by Dr.Surya Rao Poodipeddi on 20 Oct 2014 - 11:32.

Detecting the presence of hearing loss in an infant is rather difficult. A few clues can help you detect if the child is normal or could be suffering from hear loss. A normal newborn baby should be able to startle at loud noises. When you clap your hands the child without hearing loss will startle. Even the sound of apen falling on the ground will make the child startle. When the infant is 2 to 3 months old he will turn his head towards the source of the sound. At four months the child will probably begin cooing. At 6 to 7 months the child is capable of babbling.

If the child is slow to begin forming words it might be asignal to indicate hearing impairment since babies have a capacity to mimic what they hear. These clues are sufficient enough to ascertain if your infant is normal or has loss of hearing. However, each child is different from the other in respect of some developmental milestones. Some infants exhibit these signs far too soon and others may take some time to acquire these skills. Therefore, don’t conclude your child as having hearing loss if you don’t notice some of these signs. Wait and watch for some more time and the child if free from hearing loss will begin to catch up soon. 

Diagnosis:  There are however, specific tests to detect loss of hearing. In developed countries, every newborn is mandatorily screened to detect the presence of hearing loss. When in doubt that your child might behaving hearing loss consult your pediatrician who will refer him to an audiologist who will perform a test called Otoacoustic Emissions test. This test is simple, quick easy and painless and is capable of detecting impairment in a child of any age, even a newborn.  The device used to perform this test, emits sounds into your child’s ear and measures responses from thousands of tiny air cells in the inner ear. A computer analyzes the results. The sooner a child is evaluated through this test the better will be the prognoses. If the test detects a problem the child can get individualized language training or advised the use of a hearing aid. Any delay either in detecting hearing loss or seeking remedial actions might lead to developmental delays.

Causes: Roughly one in every thousand children is born with some degree of hearing loss due to the damage to the nerves in the inner ear. About half of these children have genetic problems. Mothers who have had some viral infections such as German measles, or those who were administered with streptomycin injections during pregnancy account for loss of hearing in about 15 percent of such cases. Some children are born deaf because of low birth weight resulting from malnourishment. In some it can be due to a congenital infection like toxoplasmosis and in some it may be due to premature birth.

In most cases the cause for hearing loss is not known. A child may also suffer from hearing loss when a tumor, a virus such as chickenpox, an infection with flu, an attack of meningitis or mononucleosis damages the nerves in the inner ear. Recurrent ear infections might lead to hearing loss.   Majority of children with chronic otitis media infections with discharge of pus and neglected by parents usually end up with hearing loss.

The lesson therefore, is to take immediate steps as soon as the child has ear discharge. The sad part is that a child if born with hearing loss or has developed the hearing loss due to an illness may not have a chance to reverse the condition. The good part is that such cases may not end up with complete deafness.

Treatment: Modern science gives hopes for several methods to improve hearing even if the child has extensive hearing loss. These include Cochlear Implant as soon as the child is one year and an electronic device which can be surgically inserted into the ear canal? These implants help children who are too deaf can benefit with hearing aids. In severe and hopeless cases, the child might require learning sign language as soon as possible.

*Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.