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Don't Take Perfect Hearing For Granted

If Your Child is Born With Perfect Hearing - Don't Take It For Granted

It is estimated that over eighteen thousand children - 2% of all children in New Zealand, have some form of hearing disability. Early detection of hearing loss in children allows for timely treatment and prevents social and learning difficulties.

There are two types of hearing problems.

Sensorineural hearing loss is generally permanent and affects the inner ear. It is usually present at birth due to congenital abnormality, heredity factors and viral infections during pregnancy eg. rubella. For prevention of sensorineural hearing loss, efforts should concentrate on a safe pregnancy labour, delivery and on immunisation in particular rubella, mumps, measles and haemophilus influenzae type b.

The other major type of hearing loss is conductive hearing loss. This occurs as the result of problems in the middle ear or because of blocked ear canals e.g. glue ear, a major problem in New Zealand still. Glue ear can be prevented by breastfeeding or a reduction of environmental factors such as tobacco smoke and housing dampness.

WellChild/Tamariki Ora paediatrician Marguerite Dalton says “children often develop hearing problems as they grow older. Some of these hearing problems may be genetic but can also be caused by illness or injury. In some cases parents may not even be aware that hearing loss has been caused. Early detection is the key to minimising the adverse effects that hearing loss can cause”

Children can suffer permanent hearing loss from head injuries or childhood infections such as meningitis, measles or chickenpox. Certain medications such as the antibiotic streptomycin and related drugs can also cause hearing loss. Ear infections are also a common cause for temporary hearing loss.

Dr Dalton says “while you can't protect your children from all illnesses or their genetics, you can protect them from injuries and some infections. Make sure your children's ears are cleaned properly that they are protected from the elements - such as the wind, rain, and snow, etc. You can do this by making your children wear ear muffs or hats during bad weather. You should also protect yourselves from loud and constant noises by wearing ear plugs in loud environments like rock concerts and industrial work places.”

It's important that children protect their ears appropriately when participating in sports such as swimming, football, boxing, fencing, ice hockey, rugby and all other sport that has physical contact. Make sure your child wears the correct protective equipment and do not allow them to take the ear guards off from their helmets. It is essential for their future hearing that your children know the causes and effects of hearing loss as well as how to protect their hearing.

There are many tests that you can do to see if your child has hearing loss. As a young newborn you can check if your baby jumps, blinks or cries at loud noises. As they get older you can check to see if they respond to their own name or understand “no.” A toddler should be able to understand most words, find you when you call them from another room, and will ask lots of “why” and “what” questions. If your child has trouble with some of these tasks then they may have hearing problems and they should be tested.

At three, four and five years, your child will have hearing tests at their pre-school / early childhood education centre / kindergarten / kohanga reo (and school). If your child doesn’t attend any of these, you can ask your WellChild provider or general practice team where you can call to make a free appointment with a hearing and vision technician.


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