If you have a child who will attend kindergarten in the fall, you will likely attend a “Kindergarten Round-up” or enrollment event. Health screenings, including hearing tests, are often part of the event.
You know what hearing is, but what is hearing loss? Hearing loss, or hearing impairment, happens when there is a problem with one or more parts of the ear or ears.
Someone who has hearing loss might be able to hear some sounds or nothing at all. About 3 in 1,000 babies are born with hearing impairment, making it the most common birth defect. A hearing problem can also develop later in life.
How Hearing Works
To understand how and why hearing loss happens, it helps to know how the ear works. The ear is made up of three different sections: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. These parts work together so you can hear and process sounds. The outer ear, or pinna (the part you can see), picks up sound waves and the waves then travel through the outer ear canal.
When the sound waves hit the eardrum in the middle ear, the eardrum starts to vibrate. When the eardrum vibrates, it moves three tiny bones in your ear. These bones are called the hammer (or malleus), anvil (or incus), and stirrup (or stapes). They help sound move along on its journey into the inner ear.
The vibrations then travel to the cochlea, which is filled with liquid and lined with cells that have thousands of tiny hairs on their surfaces. There are two types of hair cells: the outer and inner cells. The sound vibrations make the tiny hairs move. The outer hair cells take the sound information, amplify it (make it louder), and tune it. The inner hair cells send the sound information to your hearing nerve, which then sends it to your brain, allowing you to hear.
What Causes Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss can happen because a person was born with parts of the ear that didn’t form correctly and don’t work well.
Other problems can happen later because of an injury or illness, including: middle ear fluid; serious infections, such as meningitis, head injury, repeated exposure to loud sounds, such as machinery, listening to very loud music, especially through headphones or ear buds.
Lots of kids have had ear infections, which also can cause hearing loss. Permanent hearing loss is rare from an ear infection, but visit the doctor if you suspect your child has one.
What To Do in Case of Hearing Loss
If your child’s screening shows a hearing impairment or you suspect your child has hearing loss, follow up with the pediatrician or primary care physician.
Page 2 of 2 – The visit could make the world of difference to your child’s long-term success in school and life.
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