Most of us think of hearing loss as a problem that older people experience. While it’s true that hearing naturally declines with age, in reality anybody can experience hearing loss – even kids. An estimated 15 percent of children are diagnosed with hearing loss in Charleston.
Pediatric Hearing Loss
Children with hearing loss in Charleston face the same daily challenges as adults, but for kids, the consequences are even steeper.
Hearing loss can cause delays in speech and language development and lead to a variety of social and behavioral problems. Poor grades are only the tip of the iceberg.
Because of this, early detection is very important. Parents in Charleston should be aware of the signs of hearing loss in children, which include the following:
- No reaction to loud noises
- Failure to respond to your voice
- Frequent ear infections
- Delays in speech and language ability/limited vocabulary for their age
- Poor academic performance
- Disorders often related to hearing loss (e.g., autism, Down syndrome)
- Premature or difficult birth
- Family history of hearing loss
What Causes Childhood Hearing Loss in Charleston?
There are three main causes of hearing loss in Charleston children:
- Congenital factors. One or two out of every 1,000 babies in Charleston are born with hearing loss. Congenital factors including genetic abnormalities, prenatal problems and premature or difficult birth can all cause hearing damage.
- Middle ear infections. Ear infections are the most common reason for a child to visit their pediatrician in Charleston. They are the result of fluid buildup in the middle ear. Most ear infections clear up on their own after a few days or respond to treatment with antibiotics, but in severe cases they can cause permanent hearing damage.
- Acquired hearing loss. Many factors cause children to lose their hearing in Charleston. A few of the most common include illness, physical trauma and otoxic medications (those whose side effects can damage hearing). Noise exposure is the most common cause of acquired hearing loss in children.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Damage from excessive noise exposure is called noise-induced hearing loss, or NIHL for short. It occurs when your child is exposed to noise levels exceeding 85 decibels (dB) for extended periods of time. The louder the sound, the less safe exposure time your child has; it takes eight hours for damage to occur at 85 decibels, but at 100 decibels, permissible safe exposure time drops to 15 minutes.
Common causes of NIHL in children include sporting events; noisy vehicles such as dirt bikes; playing with firecrackers; and music.
It’s important to teach your children to protect their hearing. Make sure they wear earplugs when participating in noisy activities and stress safe music listening habits.
This means keeping the volume level set at no more than 60 percent of maximum and taking frequent breaks to give their ears a rest. Don’t trust your child to do these things on their own – the stakes are too high. Check in on them from time-to-time and don’t be afraid to take away privileges if they are not listening safely. A good rule of thumb is this: if you can hear the music they’re listening to through headphones or earbuds, it’s too loud.
If you have concerns about your child’s hearing, schedule an appointment with a Charleston audiologist as early as possible. This will help ensure your child receives the early intervention needed for academic and social success.