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Hearing in Children

Hearing in children

Childhood deafness is a significant global issue, affecting more than 62 million children younger than 15 years old – 2/3 of whom reside in developing countries. The source of child deafness is widely under-reported and varied, but medical experts point to insufficient prenatal care, lack of immunizations, exposure to ototoxic drugs, and chronic middle ear infection as the leading causes.

The World Health Organization estimates that through immunizations, early identification and intervention programs, access to hearing aids, medical treatments, and other vehicles, over 50% of the burden of hearing loss in developing countries could be reduced or eliminated.

Causes of hearing loss in children

Temporary or permanent hearing problems in children can be caused by factors including otitis media (infection of the middle ear), exposure before birth to a disease such as rubella (German measles), genetic disorders, exposure to ototoxic drugs or loud noise, as well as certain diseases including meningitis, mumps, measles.

Ear Infections (Otitis Media)

What is an ear infection, and how common is it?
Ear infections happen when the middle ear becomes inflamed. The middle ear is the small space behind the eardrum. Ear infections are also called acute otitis media. They can happen in one or both ears.

Ear infections are among the most common sicknesses during childhood and can be painful. Many children will have at least one acute ear infection by the time they turn 1 year old. Ear infections are so common in children because the passage between the middle ear and the back of the throat is smaller and more horizontal in children than in adults. This allows it to be more easily blocked by infections in the ear. Sometimes children get fluid in their middle ear but don't have an infection. This is called otitis media with fluid.

A small number of children will have three or more cases of otitis media with fluid by age 3. Sometimes the cases can take a month or longer to heal. Constant ear fluid is more common in children under 2 years of age, but it can be seen in children older than 2. When fluid is present in the ear for a prolonged period of time, this can pose a risk of hearing loss. Hearing loss at a young age can affect typical speech and language development.

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