Hearing Loss in children is usually due to ear infection or inflammation, as in acute otitis media and secretory otitis media (glue ear). In both cases, after appropriate treatment the hearing returns to normal.
However, there are cases where deafness is congenital, i.e. the child is born with a hearing loss of varying degree. Congenital deafness has an estimated incidence of 1 – 2 cases in 1000 live births. In all these cases, early detection is most important, as it will allow early implementation of all necessary measures, to avoid consequences of deafness and severe complications.
Today we are able to evaluate or measure a child’s hearing, starting from the first day of life. Otoacoustic Emissions are a quick and reliable method to screen function of the inner ear. Auditory Evoked Potentials provide quantitative measurement of the hearing, when necessary. Universal screening of all newborns is generally recommended and is gradually established in most developed countries. However, there are cases where the child is considered as being «of high risk for hearing loss» and examination is obligatory. These cases include:
- Syndromes which are known to be associated with deafness (Downs, Alport, Crouzon, etc).
- Low Apgar score (numbers given by the paediatrician at birth, referring to the newborn’s general health status)
- Low birth weight
- Assisted ventilation for more than 10 days
- Severe Jaundice after birth
- Maternal illness during pregnancy, especially rubella.
In older age, examination of hearing is needed in the following cases:
- Slow Speech development
- Parents report that the child does not respond when called from a different room
- The child wants the volume of the TV very high
- Family history of deafness
- Frequent ear infections, especially if they have started before the age of 18 months
- Infectious Diseses that may affect hearing (meningitis, measles, CMV)
- Intravenous antibiotics
- Poor performance at school
- Diagnosed learning disability or other disorder (autism, PDD)
If the parents suspect difficulty in hearing in their child, they should bring him/her for evaluation as soon as possible. Modern Otolaryngology will solve any minor problems that can be reversed, and for the rest of the cases, modern technology has solutions which allow excellent rehabilitation, even in total deafness.