Some conditions that may affect childhood hearing, such as inflammation in the middle ear known as otitis media, can be successfully treated if detected early. Others are genetic in nature and not entirely preventable. It’s usually inherited or congenital issues that are detected with newborn hearing tests. Even when such tests are normal, there are additional steps parents can take to help their children enjoy optimal hearing abilities throughout their growing years into adulthood.
Keep Up With Childhood Vaccinations
Diseases such as meningitis, measles, mumps, and rubella are possible sources of childhood hearing loss. This is one of the reasons why it’s important to stay current with your child’s vaccination schedule. Doing so can reduce the odds your child will have any illnesses that may increase susceptibility to serious ear infections.
Avoid Ototoxic Drugs
Medications that may be harmful to structures in ears are referred to as ototoxic drugs. Such medications have potential side effects that may result in hearing problems. If this is the case, talk to your child’s doctor about possible substitute medications or treatments. Ototoxic drugs include some anti-inflammatory drugs, certain antibiotics and chemotherapy drugs, and high doses of certain over-the-counter medications like aspirin. Persistent ringing in one or both ears (tinnitus) is a common symptom associated with ototoxic drugs.
Create a Quieter Home Environment
Nearly 15 percent of children, adolescents, and teens experience hearing loss due to noise exposure. If tiny hair cells in the ear are damaged by loud sounds, they’re not replaceable. This is why it’s best to steer your kids away from ear buds that put louder sounds directly inside of ears. You can also reduce the risk of childhood hearing loss due to noise exposure by:
- Setting volumes on TV sets and video games to the lowest audible volume level
- Closing windows during times of day when outside noises are loudest
- Using softer furniture, curtains, and fabrics throughout your home to increase noise absorption
- Encouraging the use of earmuffs or earplugs in situations where louder sounds can’t be easily avoided
Another way you can help your children reduce their risk of developing acquired hearing loss any time after birth is to continue with hearing tests as your children get older. While some of the testing procedures may not be entirely pleasant from start to finish, a trained ENT specialist will do everything possible to minimize discomfort. Also, pay attention to signs that may suggest an infection or issues with hearing such as a sudden inability to comprehend sounds, different tones, or voices.