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Health Watch: What early signs should you look for in childrens hearing problems

The early detection and treatment of hearing problems in children can make a big difference in their ability to hear correctly later in life.

What warning signs should new parents be on the look out for? And when should they be concerned?

Connor Job is 5 years old. He's getting his hearing checked as a follow up to previous surgeries.

Connor's mother, Rebecca Job, remembers, "He had tubes put in when he was a year old, and then had 2 subsequent surgeries called tympanoplasties which caused a very very small amount of hearing loss."

His parents suspected there might be issues with his hearing early on.
"Well, it started when he was a baby, says Rebecca. "We noticed him, and he's a twin, so him and his brother both having ear infections."

Most newborns now have their hearing screened while still in the hospital. It's an effective tool. But Dr. Evelyn Kluka, Division Chief of Pediatric Otolaryngology at Nemours, says it's never too soon for parents to look for signs of hearing loss at home.

"One of the things, shortly after birth is to watch for the baby's ability to startle to loud noises. The others are to have the baby start being able to follow voices and not rely on visual cues."

If hearing problems are present, Dr. Kluka says it's typically one of 2 things.

"Well, happily the majority of the problems are things that we can fix. And that is usually going to be the development of middle ear fluid, and that is usually associated with something called an immature Eustachian tube."
In that case, the insertion of ear tubes can be suggested.

"On the other hand," continues Kluka, "the other type of problem called a sensory neural problem, which usually is associated with an inner ear problem, or the nerve that goes from the inner ear to the brain. That is not necessarily fixable, but it can be helped by the placement of hearing aids."

The years from 0-3 are crucial in a child's proper development. Identifying hearing problems early can greatly increase the effectiveness of treatment.

"Because it's far better to test the hearing and know that it's normal, as opposed to not testing and finding out that there's a problem later down the line," says Kluka.

Today, Connor and his mom leave with good news.
"Actually, today we found out he has no hearing loss. So, we're very excited. Everything is healing like it's supposed to."
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