How to Identify Hearing Loss in Infants

June 25th, 2014 | by Andreas Seelisch | Hearing Loss
How to Identify Hearing Loss in Infants

Hearing loss in infants affects their development over time. Identifying hearing loss can be a challenge for parents who aren’t familiar with its signs. Using testing methods, as well as recognizing telltale signs of hearing loss, can help them recognize and seek treatment early on for hearing loss.

Causes of Hearing Loss

The majority of cases of hearing loss are a result of damage or dysfunction within the transmission of sound from the ear to the brain. Genetics play an important role in issues involving the auditory nerve, and account for about half of the cases of hearing loss in infants.

Additional risk factors increase the likelihood of hearing problems. These include drugs used during infection, prematurity, jaundice, and low birth weight.

In many cases, parents can undergo genetic counseling to determine an inherited loss of hearing in infants. A genetic abnormality from the parent can lead to mutations during development of the fetus.

Illnesses such as rubella can often affect the hearing development in newborns during pregnancy as well.

Testing Infants

Testing for hearing loss in infants can be performed using the auditory brainstem response (ABR) or the otoacoustic emission (OAE) methods. They provide accurate results, and are non-invasive to the infant.

If the infant fail’s either test, parents can consider additional factors that might affect the results. In many cases, the ear canal may be blocked from fluid resulting from the birth. This limits the ability to hear and can result in a false positive test result. Fluid located in the middle-ear area can also affect testing accuracy.

Parents who allow time to pass before the infant is rescreened will ensure more accurate results. Because the level of hearing loss and its signs vary from person to person, parents must be careful to consider all factors when testing their infants.

Signs of Hearing Loss in Infants

There are common signs that can be observed to evaluate infants for hearing loss. Because hearing loss has an effect on future learning and development in communication and language, parents must be aware of the signs.

When an infant doesn’t respond to voices or sudden sounds, some degree of hearing loss may be present. If rattles or bells don’t elicit an obvious response from an infant, but vibrating noises do, then testing might be considered.

Awareness of these signs helps parents recognize when it’s time to seek out professional help. Addressing hearing loss early on can help minimize future loss in some cases.

As parents understand the importance of hearing on learning and development, more action will be taken to evaluate and properly treat hearing loss in infants.

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