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Have You Heard?

07/29/2010 06:56AM ● Published by Style

I’ll admit it. I’m a fussy mom.

Most likely, I’m overly concerned about my kids’ physical and mental health…but it is our jobs as parents to keep them healthy and safe. Of course, with exceptionally stubborn children such as mine, this is easier said than done. Vegetables tend to go uneaten, video game time often gets extended, reading sometimes occurs after lights go out, and headphones are occasionally turned up louder than the agreed upon volume. The latter specifically concerns me – overly loud music and its potential effect on hearing.

Parents should “limit I-pod volume and hours of use,” says Dr. C. Eric Gage, Otolaryngologist with Sutter Medical Group. Dr. Zoey Goore, a pediatrician with Kaiser Permanente Medical Center concurs. “Right now I think the biggest precaution for preventing hearing loss is appropriate volume control,” she says. “Especially for electronics that kids put directly in their ears.” What other potential factors might there be for hearing loss, though? According to Dr. Goore, hearing loss can occur with meningitis and from antibiotics used to treat serious infections in babies. By immunizing our children against these illnesses we reduce the risk of getting the infection or needing the antibiotic in babies too young for immunizations.”

Since hearing is fully developed at birth and most medical facilities require a hearing assessment prior to releasing a newborn, it becomes the responsibility of parents and care providers to notice ear infections and/or hearing issues in children of all ages. Both doctors say that the most common time of year for ear infections is the winter season when common colds and flus are prevalent. “Parents should look for fevers, fussiness, tugging on ears, head banging and lack of sleep or eating,” says Dr. Gage, “as well as any bloody or pus-like fluid coming from the ear.”

According to Dr. Goore, hearing related problems go hand-in-hand with ear infections; the fluid behind the ear drum makes it harder to hear and when the fluid goes away, hearing returns to normal. However, if this is not the case, other symptoms that could indicate hearing issues might be “a child who should be learning to talk – if speech isn’t developing normally, we should check his/her hearing,” says Dr. Goore. “If a child is turning his/her head to hear what is being said, isn’t looking towards loud sounds, is asking for volume to be increased (although that often turns out to be that they just like it loud), or is saying “what?” often (again, sometimes it is just that the child wasn’t listening, not that he/she couldn’t hear).”

In the case of permanent hearing loss, a few options are available to children. “Cochlear implants are appropriate for hearing loss not improved nor likely to be improved,” says Dr. Gage. “Also, hearing aids can be used in pre-lingually deaf children. [However] there is a debate in the ‘deaf community’ as to whether this is the right thing to do because they feel that ASL (American Sign Language) is adequate, and recommending surgery suggests they are ‘abnormal’.”

The bottom line is that hearing loss can occur at any age, and if untreated can result in problems with speech, school and possibly even social integration; therefore, it’s important to consult with your pediatrician immediately if you ever suspect hearing-related issues in your child.

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