Hearing disorders can occur immediately after birth and also throughout childhood.

After birth, newborn hearing screening is used to rule out pronounced hearing impairments immediately after birth. But even if the screening is not positive, hearing disorders can develop as the disease progresses. Since hearing is essential for the mental, social and linguistic development of the child, it is important to recognize and treat any hearing disorders as early as possible.

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Almost half of children who are hard of hearing are affected by a disorder that was present at birth or occurs in the first 6 months afterwards. The causes of such types of hearing impairment can often not be determined. Hereditary factors often play a role. Certain infectious diseases in the mother during pregnancy or medications taken by the mother during pregnancy can also be the cause.
Of course, complications during childbirth can also lead to hearing impairments, for example a lack of oxygen or birth trauma.

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Hearing disorders that arise later can be triggered, for example, by infectious diseases such as rubella or measles. Meningitis can also be a trigger for hearing impairment. Trauma, for example injuries to the skull when falling, can also be the cause.

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Short-term hearing impairment often occurs as part of an otitis media. If the disease heals without any consequences, there are usually no hearing impairments left.

As with adults, pop trauma can be a cause of hearing impairment. A pop trauma can result from very loud noises near the child's ear.

Read more about this under Otitis media in toddlers

Accompanying symptoms

Symptoms that can be signs of a hearing disorder for the parents are a lack of frightening at loud noises, inability to distract from playing through noises or speech, no adequate reaction to language, no reaction to one's own name, weak contact, inattentiveness and aggressiveness, high attitudes Volume control of radio / television / toys, slower speech development, frequent touching of the ears as can happen, for example, with increased pressure in the ear and poor school performance. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should see your pediatrician.

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The pediatrician or ENT doctor first takes the anamnesis with questions about possible causes, symptoms of the child and complications / infections / medication use during pregnancy. This is followed by a physical examination with a focus on the ear and the nasopharynx. There are also audiological tests, i.e. hearing tests.

In the case of small children, tests are used that do not require active participation, and tests that require cooperation are also used in older children. The objective hearing test procedures (child does not have to work) include the Impedance audiometry, as well as determining the otoacoustic emissions and the auditory evoked potentials. The procedures of subjective audiometry (child must actively participate) include the Reaction audiometry, the Tone threshold audiogram and a central hearing diagnostics.

Read more about this under Recognizing hearing impairment in children - does my child hear correctly?

Treatment / therapy

The treatment of a hearing disorder largely depends on what type of hearing disorder it is and what the cause was. A rough distinction is made between sound conduction and sensorineural hearing loss.

In the case of conductive hearing loss, there is a disorder on the way to the inner ear; in the case of sensorineural hearing loss, the problem lies in the inner ear itself or in the brain. Common causes of sound conduction disorders are, for example, polyps in the nasopharynx (enlarged tonsils), they can be removed by a surgical procedure.

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Read more about this under Polyps in the nose

If the inner ear is disturbed, it is often necessary to fit a hearing aid. With complete deafness, the implantation of a so-called Cochlear implant be a possibility. This is intended to replace the function of the inner ear by converting acoustic signals that come from the outside into electrical impulses that stimulate the auditory nerves and thus transmit an auditory impression to the brain. In addition to the treatment approaches mentioned above, speech therapy is an important complementary therapy in most cases.

Read more about this under Types of hearing aids

Duration and forecast

The duration or prognosis of a hearing impairment is very variable. Congenital hearing defects often have a poor prognosis in that they rarely regress. Hearing defects that affect sound conduction often have a cause that can be treated, such as effusions in the ear or large tonsils. Sensorineural disturbances usually do not regress either. If they are recognized and treated in good time (for example with a hearing aid) and the children are looked after closely, depending on the extent of the disease and the delay between the onset and diagnosis and initiation of therapy, the child may develop completely normally in some cases.

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