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In the United States, 2-3 out of every 1,000 babies are born with a hearing deficit, according to the National Institutes of Health. Fortunately, all newborns are screened at birth for hearing loss, which helps identify babies that need early intervention. Some infants, however, can develop hearing loss after they are discharged from the hospital. How do you know if your baby is at risk? Here are some questions you can consider about infant hearing loss.

1. Do you have a history of hearing loss in your family?

Certain genetic conditions that cause hearing loss tend to run in families, so if your baby is showing signs of hearing deficit, an evaluation is in order.

2. Was your baby premature or born with low birth weight?

Babies who spent five or more days in a NICU or who had significant complications while in the NICU are more likely to suffer from hearing loss. Particularly, babies who had severe jaundice requiring transfusions are at risk. Also, certain medications commonly given in the NICU have been associated with hearing problems, particularly the antibiotic, gentamicin, and the diuretic, furosemide (Lasix).

3. Does your baby have abnormally set ears or unusual facial features?

This could point to a genetic abnormality. One out of every two babies with hearing loss has a genetic condition causing the deficit, so if this is the case, a visit to a geneticist is in order.

4. Does your baby have a neurologic disorder?

Often hearing loss goes along with other neurologic problems, so an evaluation should be undertaken.

5. Were you exposed to CMV or other infections before you gave birth?

Specifically, exposure to cytomegalovirus during pregnancy can lead to a congenital infection in your baby. While no other symptoms may be obvious, hearing loss may develop in your baby.

6. Has your baby suffered from meningitis?

Any baby who has been diagnosed with meningitis should undergo a hearing test at the end of the treatment course because the infection can lead to hearing loss.

7. Has your baby had frequent ear infections?

Even fluid in the middle ear can lead to hearing deficits. Your child’s pediatrician can determine if an ENT evaluation is in order.

Not every baby with hearing loss has an underlying problem. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every four babies with a hearing deficit has no identifiable cause. Be sure to be on the lookout for any signs of a hearing deficit to detect the problem early.

Takeaways

  • All newborns are screened for hearing loss at birth, but 25 percent of babies with a hearing deficit has no identifiable cause.
  • If hearing loss runs in your family or your baby already has frequent ear infections, they may be at risk of hearing loss.
  • Preemies, genetic abnormalities, and meningitis are all risk factors for hearing loss.

References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hearing Loss in Children.
  2. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Causes of Hearing Loss in Children.
  3. National Institutes of Health. Hearing loss—infants.

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