For a parent, there’s nothing scarier than your child’s health being at risk. Hearing is a big part of that, especially as it’s a critical component of a child’s development, playing a vital role in speech, language, and cognitive growth.
Early detection and intervention are crucial for children with hearing loss to minimize any potential long-term effects on their learning and social skills.
In this article, we will explore the different types of hearing loss in children and discuss how they are diagnosed so you can be informed about your own child’s hearing health for peace of mind.
Types of Hearing Loss in Children
There are three main types of hearing loss in children: sensorineural, conductive, and mixed hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss is typically permanent, while conductive hearing loss is often temporary and can be resolved through medical intervention. Mixed hearing loss is a combination of both types. To learn more on this subject, check out our article on the different types of hearing loss.
Hearing loss in children can be congenital, meaning present at birth, or acquired, developing after birth. Some common causes of congenital hearing loss include genetic factors, infections during pregnancy, premature birth, and birth complications. Acquired hearing loss can result from chronic ear infections, exposure to loud noises, certain medications, or head injuries.
Diagnosing Hearing Loss in Children
Early diagnosis is essential for children with hearing loss to ensure they receive the necessary support and interventions. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends universal newborn hearing screenings to identify any hearing issues as early as possible. Here are some common methods used to diagnose hearing loss in children:
Newborn Hearing Screenings
Most hospitals perform newborn hearing screenings before the baby leaves the hospital. Two primary tests are used for this purpose: the otoacoustic emissions (OAE) test and the auditory brainstem response (ABR) test.
The OAE test measures the sounds produced by the inner ear in response to a sound stimulus, while the ABR test evaluates the electrical activity of the auditory nerve and brainstem. Both tests are noninvasive, painless, and can be performed while the baby is asleep.
Behavioral Audiometry Test
For older children, audiologists may use behavioral audiometry to assess hearing abilities. This test involves playing a series of sounds or speech stimuli and observing the child's responses, such as turning their head toward the source of the sound. Behavioral audiometry can be adapted for children of different ages and developmental stages.
Tympanometry is a test that measures the movement of the eardrum in response to changes in air pressure. It can help identify middle ear problems, such as fluid buildup or a perforated eardrum, which can cause conductive hearing loss. This test is quick, noninvasive, and suitable for children of all ages.
Comprehensive Audiological Evaluation
In some cases, a comprehensive audiological evaluation may be necessary to determine the type and severity of hearing loss in a child. This assessment may include a combination of tests, such as pure-tone audiometry, speech audiometry, and acoustic reflex testing.
Next Steps After the Diagnosis of Hearing Loss in a Child
If your child is diagnosed with hearing loss, it’s crucial to work closely with a team of professionals, including audiologists, speech-language pathologists, and educators, to develop an appropriate intervention plan. This plan may involve the use of hearing aids, cochlear implants, or assistive listening devices, as well as speech and language therapy.
At ZN Audiology, we understand the importance of early detection and intervention for children with hearing loss. Our team of expert audiologists is dedicated to providing comprehensive hearing assessments and personalized treatment plans for children of all ages. If you have concerns about your child’s hearing, reach out and schedule an appointment today.