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As you start your Listening and Spoken Language (LSL) journey, you may have audiology questions. And you’re not alone! Many families who are navigating their child’s hearing loss diagnosis and learning about new technology have questions. And sometimes Dr. Google isn’t helpful in getting accurate answers. A pediatric audiologist - a professional who specializes in diagnosing, treating, and managing hearing loss for kids - can best answer those questions, especially because they're trained to work with those little ears!
So, we asked a pediatric audiologist to share answers to four common questions that families tend to ask. Read more to get audiologist-approved answers!
Ear infections are incredibly common for little ones because the tubes and spaces in children’s ears are so small. Children tend to have more ear infections between the ages of 3 months and 3 years, but can have them until about age 8. In really young children, the tube that clears fluid from the middle ear (the eustachian tube) is still developing. It tends to lie flatter and may be narrower which can make it less effective at clearing fluid from the middle ear. If your child has a cold, that bacteria can reach the middle ear. And if their body can’t clear it out then that fluid can build up behind the eardrum and become infected.
Some children have a harder time fighting off infections, which means they may be more likely to have frequent ear infections. Other children might have an enlarged adenoid — a tiny flap of tissue at the back of the throat — that traps bacteria which can spread to the middle ear, causing an infection.
Not all ear infections are the same! While some heal on their own, others need to be treated with an antibiotic. If your child has an ear infection, talk to your pediatrician or pediatric ENT (ear, nose, throat doctor).
It’s true that ear infections can cause hearing loss. This is because the fluid that builds up behind the eardrum acts like a barrier for sound. Although sound will still pass through the child’s middle ear to reach the inner ear, sounds will be muffled. If ear infections happen often, the muffled sound may cause speech and language delays, even in a child with typical hearing.
If a child has an ear infection on top of a permanent hearing loss, the infection can make the hearing loss worse, make the child’s hearing technology less effective, and prevent the child from using their devices due to discomfort.
The good news is that ear infections typically cause a temporary hearing loss, and once the infection is cleared up, the child’s hearing should return to how it was before the infection.
This happens to almost every parent! You’re not alone in dealing with a curious baby or toddler. Remember it’s important for your child to hear all of the sounds around them, so you’ll need to be persistent during this phase. Children quickly learn their hearing device connects them with the world around them. Pretty soon they’ll be asking for their devices when they wake up and they’ll be putting them back on themselves if they do fall off.
In the meantime, here are some tips to help keep those devices on!
Sometimes it’s not just curious fingers pulling the devices off. If your child pulls their device off only when they are around loud sounds, talk to your audiologist so they can help you troubleshoot. There may be a problem with the device or the device settings may need to be adjusted.
See more tips for keeping devices on little ears here!
There’s a difference between a child sometimes pulling off their devices and when they suddenly refuse to wear them. If your child is in the second group, it can be for a variety of reasons.
Remember, your pediatric audiologist is a critical part of your support team as you teach your child to listen and talk. Don’t hesitate to ask them questions or share your concerns. They’re there to help!
Dr. Zwolan has over 30 years of experience in patient care and research as Professor in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and the Director of the Cochlear Implant Program at the University of Michigan.
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