Health

What Are the Causes of Hearing Loss in Children?

boy with headphones on: causes of hearing loss in children

Hearing loss is a serious problem for anyone, but it is particularly concerning when your kids start to show signs of it at a young age.

While hearing problems aren’t particularly prevalent in children, roughly 0.17% of infants and 0.5% of all children have some form of hearing issues during their youth.

This is still a significant figure and gives a great reason for you to be conscious about any auditory problems your kids might be dealing with. To better understand this, it is extremely helpful to know what causes hearing loss in children.

We’ll go over the most common causes of hearing loss in kids below to point you towards some important things to look out for.

Genetic Factors

Genetic factors by far represent the leading causes of hearing loss in children. Roughly half of the auditory problems in infants are a result of genetic issues.

The cochlea is the component of an ear that transmits sound into nerve signals to your brain. It is extremely complex and requires specialized “instructions” to grow and function properly.

These instructions are created in the form of genes, which are hereditary and therefore passed from parent to child. This is why a parent with genetic hearing loss is likely to pass it onto their child.

Whenever genes are not expressed properly, this results in a genetic mutation. For the cochlea, genetic mutation of any of the genes required to transmit sound can result in hearing loss.

While hereditary traits are passed down from parents, genetic mutations are not always received from parents. Your child can have a genetic mutation in the cochlea that results in hearing issues.

Most of the time genetic factors are completely unavoidable, but there is one scenario where there is an exception. 

Occasionally a child will have fine hearing, but then takes a specific medication that causes hearing loss. This is also a result of genetic mutation. DNA testing of your newborn can help to identify any mutations and prevent the use of medications that will result in hearing problems.

Birth Complications

Another common cause of hearing loss in children is complications resulting from birth or time spent in the womb.

Here are several causes that can lead to auditory issues in children:

  • Toxic chemical exposure
  • Transmitted infections
  • Deformation of head or ears
  • Complications in an intensive care unit 
  • Premature birth
  • Drug and alcohol use

Many of these are unavoidable for a parent, but downright negligent behaviors like drug and alcohol use are completely avoidable. They should not be used at all costs to give your child the best chance of having good hearing.

Illnesses

Many illnesses can also contribute to hearing loss in children. 

Here are some of the typical ailments that lead to your child developing auditory problems:

  • Meningitis
  • Chicken Pox
  • Encephalitis
  • Ear Infections
  • Mumps 
  • Measles
  • Influenza

By far, the most common illness that leads to hearing loss is Otitis media

This is an infection of the middle ear that happens because children’s eustachian tubes are still very small. As a result, there tends to be a build-up of fluid behind the eardrum, which is at a high risk of getting infected.

If the fluid is not quickly dealt with, it will at least cause temporary hearing loss. In more intense scenarios where the infection is not dealt with, the fluid build-up can cause irreversible hearing loss.

This is why any signs of hearing loss in an ordinarily healthy child must be swiftly dealt with. Otitis media can be resolved, but only with quick intervention by a pediatrician. Medication will resolve the fluid build-up and restore any temporary hearing loss if administered shortly after symptoms arise. 

Injuries

One final cause of auditory loss in kids is an injury. There are two primary scenarios where this will happen; exposure to overly loud noise and direct impact to the head, specifically the ear.

Loud noises are always detrimental to hearing for people of any age, but this is particularly important for children. Because your child’s ears are still developing, it is weaker than adult ears and more susceptible to harm.

Any direct impacts are also significant because this is force being applied directly to the ear, which is a very sensitive part of the body. 

If you can remember any time you got hit in the ear, you’ll probably remember that your hearing was impacted at least for a short while. This will also happen to your children and can be long-lasting if the blow is significant enough.

You should avoid letting your children listen to loud music, television with the volume cranked up and taking them to loud, live events. Make sure to limit any roughhousing and keep an eye on them when they are playing.

Closing Thoughts

There are several different causes of hearing loss in children. Some are preventable, while others are caused by genetics.

Genetic factors are the leading cause of auditory problems, but complications in the womb, during birth, or shortly thereafter are close behind.

Illnesses and injuries are two other reasons for hearing loss in children and both are typically avoidable.

Be diligent about dealing with any signs of hearing problems in your child and make sure they are always playing safe and avoiding loud noises. This will give you the best chance of ensuring good hearing for your child.