Although we often think of hearing loss as a plight of the elderly, children are also susceptible to the condition. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that some 32 million children around the globe suffer from some form of hearing loss – a staggering number.
That being said, the WHO also estimates that about 60% of these children have hearing loss that could have been prevented. While some children are born without the ability to hear and others have unavoidable conditions that lead to hearing loss, for that 60% of children who can avoid hearing loss, preventative interventions by parents and caregivers are critical.
Parents and caregivers want the best for their children, so the thought that your child could develop preventable hearing loss is a scary one, indeed. Luckily, there are steps you can take to help your child maintain good hearing health throughout their life. Here’s what you can do:
- Stress the importance of hearing health. Many children – and adults for that matter – don’t realize how important their hearing actually is nor do they recognize the dangerous situations we often put our hearing in when we expose ourselves to loud noises. It’s easy to overlook the importance of something that we take for granted, so teaching children to respect the value of their own hearing can help them start to take personal responsibility for their own hearing health.
- Set a maximum volume on electronic devices. Many modern smartphones and computers have parental control settings that can limit the maximum volume of music or videos that children can listen to. This can be a good way to protect a child’s hearing, especially if they’re not old enough or mature enough to understand the importance of their own hearing abilities. For older children and teenagers who are more likely to see this action as a sign of parental interference in their independence, a conversation about the importance of these volume limits could be helpful.
- Choose quality headphones. There are so many different headphones on sale today that it can be really difficult to choose a pair that is less likely to cause hearing damage. Although playing music too loudly on any set of headphones can hurt your ears, there are some headphone choices that are better than others in this regard. For the most part, earbuds are best avoided because they allow too much background noise to get to your ears, encouraging people to turn up the volume too much higher levels than they actually should. Over the ear and noise-canceling headphones can help alleviate some of that problem.
- Use hearing protection. Especially if you take children to sporting events, concerts, or other noisy venues, you might want to consider investing in some hearing protection. Ear protection can include anything from custom molded earplugs to protective ear muffs, so it’s important to find a pair that works well for your children. It’s also worth considering the use of ear protection when a child practices playing an instrument indoors and at home as repeated exposure to loud instruments, including percussion and brass instruments, can have a negative impact on one’s hearing health.
At the end of the day, there’s a lot we can do to help protect a child from preventable hearing loss. Many of these steps are simple and don’t require a huge time or financial commitment but they could protect your child’s hearing, so they’re well worth the investment.
The loss of the ability to hear has a profound impact on a child’s language and behavioral development. Estimates suggest that children with a hearing problem are more prone to behavioral problems than their normal-hearing peers. The challenges of early childhood communication lead to maladaptive interaction with others resulting in behavioral disorders. Why are children with hearing problems more prone to behavioral issues and what are the solutions to the challenge?
High Rates Of Aggression
Hearing loss treatment for children is better than it has ever been before. Technological improvements along with institutional changes are giving these kids more options for their hearing loss. Despite these advancements, children with hearing loss exhibit more aggression than their peers with normal hearing. Deaf children, in general, have higher rates of aggression, noncompliance, and inattention. Depression and other mental health problems are also high in children with a hearing loss.
Current Research Into The Problem
Research suggests that problems with language and communication skills are at the root of behavioral issues. Control of language is essential for life management. Those children without this control show an increase in difficulty with impulse control, planning, and regulating behavior. In studies with deaf children who have practical communication skills, the results show improvement in organizing behavior, attention, and impulse control. Furthermore, deaf children who have deaf parents or those with cochlear implants who have developed their language skills show improvement on par with children with normal hearing.
Most children who are deaf have parents with normal hearing. These children often present with language barriers early on because the healthy hearing parents are not skilled at visual communication making it difficult for the child to benefit from an accessible form of communication. Many deaf children have parents who report much stress in their daily lives and often make poor decisions. Deaf children develop an understanding of social interaction later than other kids. Most deaf children now receive education in mainstream schools. However, studies indicate that deaf children may experience neglect by their peers which limits the opportunity for social interaction.
There is positive news to report. Studies indicate that intervention with these children can be useful. Programs can teach these children impulse control and social skills to improve social interaction and behavioral control. These interventions must be a part of the regular school curriculum for these children with language and communication skills being the primary focus. Academic programs where deaf and hearing children learn together are beneficial in promoting inclusion into mainstream educational programs. Interventions that support communication in the family are also critical to the child’s development and behavior.
If your child has a hearing loss and behavioral problems do not fret. Interventions can help. Your child can learn methods for controlling their behavioral impulses as well as improve their social interaction skills. If you are not sure if your child has a hearing loss, please schedule a hearing evaluation with a hearing healthcare professional today or check out the Hearing Loss Association of America website for more information and possible assistance.
Normal gestation time for a human fetus is 40 weeks and any child born before 37 weeks of gestation is considered premature. Being born premature presents a whole host of complications for a newborn and puts them at risk for health problems that can have life-long implications.
Premature babies – affectionately known as preemies – can suffer from a variety of health issues, like apnea, intraventricular hemorrhage, and respiratory distress syndrome, which can keep them in the hospital for weeks or months after they are born. But did you know that preemies are also at risk for hearing loss?
According to researchers, nearly 2-4% of premature infants are at risk of sensorineural hearing loss compared to 0.1-0.3% of their full-term counterparts. Since premature birth can be coupled with immediately life-threatening conditions, the risk of hearing loss is often overlooked or unappreciated during initial care. That being said, hearing loss in preemies can have lifelong consequences so special attention to its causes and treatments is of the utmost importance.
The Cause Of Hearing Loss
When we think of the causes of hearing loss in preemies, many of us might assume that it is often due to underdevelopment of the sensitive – yet important – organs and structures within the ear. Contrary to popular belief, however, the overwhelming consensus amongst neonatal hearing experts is that hearing loss in preemies is due to the antibiotics so frequently used to help the infants fight off infections.
It turns out that 1 in 500 people inherit a gene variation from their mothers that increases the risk of severe and irreversible hearing loss in infants after they are exposed to the commonly used antibiotic gentamicin.
While the solution to this issue may seem simple (just stop administering this antibiotic), gentamicin is incredibly effective at treating a whole host of bacterial infections, such as pneumonia, sepsis, and endocarditis, so it can be critical in saving a newborn preemie’s life. Thus, the answer may lie not in avoiding gentamicin completely, but in knowing when the antibiotic many eventually cause irreversible hearing loss.
Preventing Preemie Hearing Loss
Luckily, many researchers have already dedicated themselves to this important task. A team at the Manchester Centre for Genomic Medicine at the University of Manchester have been searching for a way to screen newborns for the genetic variation that increases this risk for hearing loss and have been making significant progress toward their goal. So far, the team believes that they have developed a genetic test for the gene variant that does not adversely affect the newborn.
Using a simple cheek swab, the team believes that they can generate a genetic test result in 30 minutes or less that can inform physicians as to whether or not they can administer gentamicin to a preemie, all within the recommended first hour after admission.
Another group of researchers is focusing on the antibiotics themselves. At Stanford University, a research team led by Tony Ricci, Ph.D., are looking to create a new generation of aminoglycosides – a type of broad-range antibiotic, which includes gentamicin among their ranks. Although these antibiotics save lives, they have a nasty side-effect: they cause hearing loss in about 20% of patients, particularly in newborns and people who take repeated doses.
To combat this issue, the Stanford researchers have created three new aminoglycoside antibiotics, all of which have molecules that are simply too large to enter the ion channels of the inner ear. Thus, these new antibiotics can significantly lower the risk of hearing loss, especially in preemies.
While the research is still in its early stages, the work of countless research teams will likely have a lasting impact on the prevalence of hearing loss in premature infants. As our understanding of premature infant hearing loss expands and new technologies are developed, we can work toward a world where premature babies can grow up to live long, healthy lives free from hearing loss.