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Deafness In Children

There can be many causes for deafness. If a child is born with hearing loss, then it is usually a birth defect or ‘congenital’ deafness. However, some children may be born with normal hearing and then develop a progressive hearing loss. This may also be genetic or inherited in origin. Any child suspected to be suffering from hearing loss or who does not respond to sounds or is late in developing speech should be investigated immediately to establish a diagnosis as soon as possible.

The critical period of learning in a child is the first 5 years of life, and that is why children diagnosed late may find it difficult to develop good listening skills or learn to speak clearly.

Mild to moderately severe cochlear or sensori-neural deafness would normally be treated with Hearing Aids. But cases with severe to profound deafness would require a Cochlear Implant Surgery as in such severe cases of hearing loss, the hearing aids are not able to provide adequate benefit to the child.

Many children suffer from frequent colds due to enlarged adenoids. Some of them develop fluid in their middle ears, which is called otitis media with effusion (OME). This is very common in childhood, and some children may be diagnosed accidentally when they visit the clinic for some unrelated complaint. A simple test called impedance audiometry will confirm the diagnosis. Treatment is usually with medication but may require the insertion of ventilation tubes called ‘grommets’ into the ear drum by a minor surgical procedure in the theatre. Also, if the adenoids are large, then they may also need to be surgically removed. This adenoid removal is nowadays performed as a safe procedure called a ‘coblation assisted adenoidectomy’.

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