Healthy Kids

Kids and Hearing Loss

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By Henry Ford Health System Staff

Early detection is essential when it comes to hearing loss in children.

“The most critical time to detect hearing problems is in the newborn,” says Edward Suchyta, M.D., a pediatrician with Henry Ford Health System. “Every hospital in Michigan performs a special hearing test that detects the inability to hear. If this test is failed, a follow-up test called a BAER test is performed by an audiologist. Most children picked up at initial screening will pass this second test. Those that don’t will be evaluated by ENT physicians and audiologists to see if hearing aids are warranted.”

Dr. Suchyta says doctors use three approaches to treat hearing loss, depending on the cause: ear surgery, hearing aids or cochlear implants.

Causes of Hearing Loss
According to the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) there are several causes of hearing loss. Hearing loss may be present at birth, sometimes caused by genes carried by one or both parents, or complications of pregnancy, such as premature birth or exposure to viruses including Rubella (German measles) and others.

Hearing loss may also occur later in childhood. A few common causes of this type of hearing loss include: diseases such as repeated ear infections, tumors, head injury, some types of drugs and exposure to loud noise.

“Hearing loss can be sneaky, so symptoms are not always common,” says Dr. Suchyta. “Children who have trouble developing normal speech should be evaluated for hearing problems. Children who have a family history of hearing loss or children with repeated ear infections should also be evaluated for hearing loss. As a rule, most pediatricians will screen children with a hearing test every other year from 4 years old into adolescence during their physical exams.”

Hearing problems in children are fairly uncommon. One reason for this, says Dr. Suchyta, is the rubella vaccination. “Most people do not realize that the main objective of rubella immunization is to prevent infection in infants,” Dr. Suchyta says. “It has resulted in virtual elimination of this important cause of hearing loss in the newborn.”

Preventing Hearing Loss
To prevent hearing loss, parents should be mindful of loud, persistent noise exposure. This concern is not limited to teens and tweens using ever-present earbuds. Some children’s toys emit sounds with noise levels similar to a lawn mower. Some of these toys include cap guns, talking dolls, vehicles with horns and sirens, walkie-talkies, musical instruments, and toys with cranks.

ASHA recommends that an adult with normal hearing examine all toys before buying. If the toy sounds loud, don’t buy it. ASHA notes that some parents put heavy duct tape over the speakers of noisy toys to muffle sounds.

“The old ‘if I can hear your headphones, they are on too loud’ is probably not good enough and we encourage everyone to listen to the lowest volume that allows one to appreciate the music,” says Dr. Suchyta.

Ever wonder what it’s like for someone living with mild to moderate hearing loss? Check out this hearing loss simulator to hear what they hear.

Dr. Edward Suchyta sees patients at Henry Ford Medical Center – Lakeside in Sterling Heights. To make an appointment or find a pediatrician close to you, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).