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Detecting & Treating Hearing Loss in Children

May marks Better Hearing Month, which is dedicated to raising awareness regarding hearing loss and treatment as well as proactively protecting your hearing. Hearing loss is sometimes more difficult to diagnose in children. Parents are in the best position to detect hearing loss in their children, but it is not always noticeable right away. How can you identify and treat hearing loss in your child? First, it’s important to understand the two types of hearing loss: congenital and acquired.
Types of Hearing Loss

In Pennsylvania, infants are screened at birth to detect and address congenital hearing loss. Congenital means the child was born with it, either as an inherited trait or as a result of a complication during pregnancy and delivery. Acquired hearing loss is far more common and can happen anytime throughout childhood. Children may acquire hearing loss from an injury, disease, infection, or noise exposure.

Common Culprits

A common cause of acquired hearing loss is an ear infection. Children commonly develop inflammation of the middle ear because the small shape of the ear passage is easily blocked and retains fluid, which can lead to infections causing temporary or permanent hearing loss.

Exposure to extremely loud noises is another leading cause of acquired hearing loss. How loud is too loud? A good rule is to watch for any time a child claps hands over his or her ears. When it comes to headphones or earbuds, if you can hear the volume while your child is wearing them, the sound is too loud. Powerful sound systems and loud crowds at a concert, sporting event, or movie theater can reach unsafe volumes, so plan to bring ear plugs or ear covers for protection.
Early Detection is Key

When a child does not have normal hearing, he or she can be delayed in speech and language development. Without assistance to correct that hearing loss, the auditory cortex of the brain can be permanently impacted. Children are screened for hearing loss prior to kindergarten and then again in first, third, fifth, seventh, and eleventh grades.

At your child’s check-ups, the doctor looks for certain development milestones, such as babbling at around six months, forming words at around one year, and linking words together into sentences by age two.

Signs you should watch for between these screening tests include:

• Misunderstanding or frequently responding “I didn’t hear you” or “what” when spoken to
• Requesting louder volumes on a television or electronic device
• Regularly tilting the same ear toward you when listening
• Not paying attention
• Unexplained irritability
• Pulling or tugging at the ears
• Speaking at a louder regular volume than before

Evaluating Hearing Loss

If you suspect a problem, have your child’s hearing checked by an audiologist. Audiologists are specially trained to evaluate, diagnose, and treat hearing loss, tinnitus, and balance disorders in children as well as adults.

The audiologist uses an age-appropriate test to evaluate your child’s hearing and records the sound frequencies your child can hear from the lowest to the highest tones on a graph called an audiogram. This graph helps determine the most appropriate treatment to improve your child’s hearing. Treatments can include a hearing aid, cochlear implant, surgery, or use of another supportive device.

If a surgical solution is needed, such as ear tubes or a cochlear device, you will be referred to an ear, nose and throat specialist (ENT). If a hearing aid or other supportive device is needed, an audiologist helps you choose the right device, assures that it fits properly, and teaches your family proper operation and cleaning. The audiologist also conducts annual check-ups to assure the device continues to fit well as the child grows.

For more information on pediatric hearing loss, call (570) 326-8360 or visit

Dr. Carly Magill is an audiologist with UPMC Susquehanna seeing patients of all ages for hearing loss, tinnitus, and balance disorders.

Detecting & Treating Hearing Loss in Children
By: Carly Magill, AUD, CCC-A
Audiologist, UPMC Susquehanna

Webb Weekly

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