If you are the parent of a baby or have one on the way, then you need to understand that hearing loss can affect any baby, even those whose parents are blessed with perfect hearing. In fact, over 90 percent of children who suffer from hearing loss are born to parents who have good hearing. Hearing loss is the most common birth defect in newborns.
Read on to learn more about hearing loss in babies and what the current treatment options are if your baby is born with or develops hearing loss.
Baby Hearing Loss Prevention
According to the National Institutes of Health, about 50 to 60 percent of babies born with hearing loss develop this problem due to genetics. Other babies are born with hearing loss that occurs due to certain illnesses the mother developed or exposure to certain chemicals while pregnant.
While not all illnesses can be avoided while pregnant, toxoplasmosis often can be. This parasitic infection can be contracted when a pregnant women handles cat litter contaminated with the parasite or eats meat contaminated with the toxoplasma gondii parasite. A child exposed to this parasite in the womb can be born with hearing loss or develop it much later in life.
Another way to help preserve your unborn child's hearing is to avoid taking ototoxic medications during pregnancy. These medications are known to potentially damage the ear. Over 200 ototoxic medications are currently on the market. Always tell your healthcare providers that you are pregnant to ensure they do not prescribe you an ototoxic medication.
Babies can also develop non-congenital hearing loss due to untreated middle ear infections, some illnesses like the measles or meningitis, trauma to the ears, and exposure to loud noises.
Signs of Hearing Loss in Babies
Congenital hearing loss in newborns is often diagnosed before a baby leaves the hospital as a result of the newborn hearing screening that has become standard in most hospitals. Even if your newborn passes their hearing screening in the hospital, it is important to watch for signs of hearing loss after you take them home. Some babies who pass the newborn hearing screening can actually suffer from mild hearing difficulties the test does not screen for, and many babies develop hearing loss after birth.
The signs of hearing loss in babies vary based on the baby's age. A sign of hearing loss in babies of all ages is not responding to noises, including voices and music. Babies who do not begin producing vowel sounds by their second month of life or do not begin mimicking the sounds they hear the children and adults around them making by the age of six months could also be suffering from hearing loss.
Older babies who fail to progress in their language skills as quickly as their peers should also be screened for hearing difficulties.
Hearing Loss Treatments for Babies
If you suspect your baby is suffering from hearing loss, the good news is that a variety of hearing loss treatments are available today. If the hearing loss is caused by an ear structural problem, then a surgery may be able to restore your child's hearing. Some cases of hearing loss in babies can be treated by implanting devices in the affected ears called cochlear implants. Other babies benefit most from implantable or traditional hearing aids.
If you are the parent of a baby or will become a parent soon, then it is important to know that any baby can be born with or develop hearing loss. Contact the staff at Wilmington Ear Nose & Throat Associates, P.A. to schedule a hearing test for your child if you notice them displaying any signs of hearing loss.