Congenital hearing loss is the presence of hearing loss at or before birth. It is the most common type of hearing loss in children, affecting about 1 in 1,000 babies born in the United States.
What is the most common cause of congenital hearing loss?
The causes of congenital hearing loss are varied and can be genetic or environmental. Some of the most common causes include:
- Genetic disorders. There are over 400 known genetic disorders that can cause hearing loss. Some of the most common include Usher syndrome, Waardenburg syndrome, and Pendred syndrome.
- Birth defects. Some birth defects, such as spina bifida and Down syndrome, can also cause hearing loss.
- Infections. Some infections that can occur during pregnancy, such as rubella, cytomegalovirus, and toxoplasmosis, can cause hearing loss in the baby.
- Prematurity. Babies who are born prematurely are at an increased risk of hearing loss.
- Low birth weight. Babies who are born with low birth weight are also at an increased risk of hearing loss.
What are the Symptoms of Congenital Hearing Loss?
The symptoms of congenital hearing loss can vary depending on the severity of the hearing loss. Some babies with mild hearing loss may not have any symptoms at all. Other babies with more severe hearing loss may have difficulty hearing sounds, such as the cry of their mother or the ringing of a bell.
Is Congenital Hearing Loss Treatable?
Yes, congenital hearing loss is treatable. The most common treatment for congenital hearing loss is hearing aids. Hearing aids amplify sound waves and help people with hearing loss hear better. In some cases, cochlear implants may be used to treat congenital hearing loss. Cochlear implants are electronic devices that are surgically implanted in the inner ear. They work by bypassing the damaged parts of the ear and sending electrical signals directly to the brain.
How Do You Treat Congenital Hearing Loss?
The treatment for congenital hearing loss will depend on the severity of the hearing loss and the individual’s needs. Some babies with mild hearing loss may not need any treatment at all. Other babies with more severe hearing loss may need to use hearing aids or cochlear implants.
Early intervention is important for children with congenital hearing loss. Early intervention can help children develop language and communication skills. Early intervention services may include:
- Hearing assessments
- Hearing aid fitting
- Speech and language therapy
- Parent education
- Social-emotional support
If you are concerned that your child may have congenital hearing loss, it is important to see an audiologist for a hearing evaluation. The earlier hearing loss is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome for the child.