According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) around 12 in 10,000 children in the United States are born with moderate to greater hearing loss while around 20 in 10,000 children will require hearing aids by the age of 17. Furthermore, apart from many diseases that can cause hearing loss, the CDC also highlights the significant rise in noise induced hearing loss, which now accounts for almost 12% of all instances of hearing losses among the American children between the ages of 6 and 19.
When talking about the diseases that might lead to hearing losses, some diseases might cause permanent hearing losses while others cause temporary losses. Similarly the diseases affecting the hearing loss might do so before birth or else in the early years of life. However, if the hearing loss can be recognized early, health care providers will be able to support the child to gain as much hearing as possible along with helping the child to gain other necessary skills.
Otitis media (Middle ear infections)
Among the diseases that can affect the child’s hearing, Otitis media or middle ear infections caused by bacterial organisms is a common finding. As the name suggest, it affects the middle ear and the resulting fluid buildup may obstruct the proper sound conduction. If the middle ear infection is inadequately treated or neglected, recurrent Otitis media might take place and could cause permanent damage to the structures within the middle ear leading to permanent hearing loss.
Although Otitis media is perhaps the commonest infective cause for hearing loss in children, there are several other diseases which can also contribute towards hearing losses. Among them, Meningitis is a serious illness which is characterized by inflammation of the lining of the brain. As the brain’s lining continues over the middle and inner ear compartments, it is possible for such inflammation to spread into the hearing organs of the ear or else affect the signal transmission of the auditory nerve. However, hearing loss is not always present in meningitis while some of the other manifestations of meningitis are far more serious than the hearing loss.
A condition known as glue ear can also lead to a hearing loss in children, which is characterized by the fluid buildup behind the eardrum. The hearing loss caused by glue ear could become worse when the initial collection of runny fluid becomes thick and therefore affects the vibration of the eardrum as well as the sound transduction in the middle ear cavity.
Ménière’s disease and Otosclerosis
Ménière’s disease, which is a disorder affecting the inner ear and Otosclerosis which is a irregular growth of bones inside the ear could also affect the hearing in the affected children.
Apart from various kinds of infections and inflammatory diseases, tumors can also lead to hearing losses. Among the tumors causing such manifestations in children, Cholesteatoma, which is usually a benign skin cyst, has the ability to dissolve nearby bones as it grows, and should be highlighted.
When talking about genetic diseases that can lead to hearing losses in children, Usher’s syndrome and Treacher Collins syndrome are well known. Among the two, Usher’s syndrome is also known to be associated with vision problems later in life while patients with Treacher Collins are mostly associated with facial development abnormalities. Apart from these genetic disorders, diseases like Down’s syndrome and Alport syndrome could also lead to hearing losses in children.
Lastly, maternal infections during pregnancy could also lead to developmental abnormalities in children and therefore to hearing losses. Thus, when the mother is affected by Rubella, Cytomegalovirus and Herpes Simplex, there is a chance that the newborn might suffer from hearing abnormities apart from the other developmental abnormalities.