Infant Hearing Loss


Infant hearing loss can be said to have occurred when the newborn child does not startle, move, cry or react in any way to unexpected loud noises, or does not awaken to loud noises, or does not turn its head in the direction of your voice, or does not freely imitate sound. More than three million American children have a hearing loss. An estimated 1.3 million of these children are under three years of age. Parents and grandparents are usually the first to discover hearing loss in a baby, because they spend the most time with them. If at any time you suspect your baby has a hearing loss, discuss it with your doctor. He or she may recommend evaluation by an otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeon (ear, nose and throat specialist). Hearing loss can be temporary, caused by earwax or middle ear infections. Many children with temporary hearing loss can have their hearing restored through medical treatment or minor surgery. However, some children have sensorineural hearing loss (sometimes called nerve deafness), which is permanent. Most of these children have some usable hearing, and children as young as three months of age can be fitted with hearing aids. Early diagnosis, early fitting of hearing or other prosthetic aids, and an early start on special education programs can help maximize a child's existing hearing. This means your child will get a head start on speech and language development.

Causes of infant hearing loss

Hearing loss has many causes: some are environmental (such as certain infections in the mother during pregnancy, or infections in the newborn baby), and some are genetic. A combination of environmental factors and genes also could cause hearing loss. In few of the babies with a hearing loss, the loss is a part of a syndrome, meaning that these infants have other problems, which may be one of those of the four hundred's. The other cases are nonsyndromic, which means that the baby does not have any other problems.

Other causes

About 40% of the newborns with hearing loss that do not have a syndrome, have a variation in the GJB2 gene in some populations. There are many different variations in this gene that cause a hearing loss. Most of these variants are called recessive. This means that a person can have one usual copy of the gene and one of the variants and will have normal hearing function.

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