BABYMINDER – Hearing impairment is caused by many factors. Some babies are born with hearing impairment; some acquire it because of an accident or infection.
Hearing impairment occurs when there is problem or damage to one or more parts of the ear. A blockage or other structural problems in the outer or middle ear including the ear canal, eardrum, make sound levels seem lower and cause conductive hearing loss. This could happen at birth or within the first few days of life of a child. It can be corrected with medication or surgery.
Mixed hearing loss occurs when one has both conductive and sensorineural hearing problems.[pq]The most common cause of the conductive hearing loss in children is infection that affects the middle ear; what doctors call otitis media.[/pq]
Fluid or pus builds up behind the eardrum, which makes hearing difficult.
Hearing returns to normal when the fluid clears up (either on its own or with the help of medication). Impacted earwax or dirt, or fluid due to cold and allergies can also cause conductive hearing loss.
Easy to diagnose
Today, babies are usually screened for hearing loss before they leave the hospital. Screening for hearing loss is simple and result could be available in five minutes. It is performed on the baby’s second day of life. Tiny earplugs that have sensitive microphones are placed in the baby’s ears. This checks the inner ears’ response to sound. If the baby does not pass this test, it does not mean that there is hearing loss.
There may be temporary blockage, such as fluid that would clear up in time. The test is repeated after a month, and if the baby still does not pass the second test, the auditory brainstem response test is required.
An auditory brainstem response (ABR) is a physiological measure of the brainstem’s response to sound. It tests the integrity of the hearing system from the ear to the brainstem.
For infant-screening purposes, only one sound is used to test the hearing, commonly referred to as a “click.” The click is a grouping of several sounds to test a wider area of the hearing organ at one time. The click is typically presented at a loud level and a soft one. If a healthy response is recorded, then the infant has “passed” the hearing screen. Testing usually takes five to 15 minutes to complete.
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