Hearing Loss in Children

Parents should consult a physician if their children have prolonged signs of:

  • Being inattentive
  • Inability to follow directions
  • Making the television especially loud 
  • Being easily distracted

Hearing loss in children is most often attributed to otitis media, genetics, and pregnancy complications. Hearing loss can be progressive and acquired from infection, and it is not necessarily associated with other symptoms.

Otitis Media

The most common postnatal cause of hearing loss in children is otitis media, which is an inflammation in the middle ear, typically associated with fluid buildup, which may or may not be infected. The hearing loss occurs because the vibrations from the eardrum to the inner ear are transmitted less efficiently with the presence of fluid. Children are especially susceptible to otitis media because the eustachian tube, a passage running from the middle ear to the throat, is smaller in children and is more easily blocked up by fluid. As otitis media infects seventy-five percent of all children by the age of three, one case should not cause alarm. Repeated bouts with infection, however, can cause enough damage to the eardrum and ear bones to create permanent hearing loss.

Genetic Factors

Fifty percent of congenital hearing loss (where hearing loss exists at birth) is caused by genetic factors. If one parent possesses the dominant gene for hearing loss, there is a fifty percent chance the child will have hearing loss. The hearing loss in the child is usually expected because the parent carrying the dominant gene will likely have hearing loss, also. It can also be genetically acquired if both parents carry the recessive gene. In this case, the child has a twenty-five percent chance of having hearing loss, but it will be unexpected because the parents typically have normal hearing. Mothers can also carry the recessive trait on the sex chromosome and pass it on to males, but not females. 

Pregnancy Complications

Premature birth and cytomegalovirus (CMV) are the main pregnancy complications that cause hearing loss in children. Babies born prematurely have undeveloped auditory systems and are also more vulnerable to damage. Also, CMV is a dangerous virus that can attack the fetus and cause progressive hearing loss. Other pregnancy complications causing hearing loss include rubella, maternal diabetes, and lack of oxygen.

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