About Hearing Loss (page 2)
What is hearing loss?
Hearing loss is the partial or extreme loss of a person’s ability to receive information by listening. The most extreme cases of hearing loss are known as deafness, a term used when the hearing loss is so severe a person cannot understand information when listening is the sole means of receiving information.
Because babies learn language by listening to the people around them, an undetected or untreated hearing loss can have a devastating effect on a child’s ability to develop speech and language skills. A child who can't hear sounds or differences in sounds will have difficulty understanding words and speech.
Today, most infants have a hearing loss screening before they leave the hospital. Early detection of a hearing loss means earlier access to hearing technology and early intervention, and a better opportunity for a child to develop spoken language.
How does the degree of hearing loss affect what people can hear?
People can have varying degrees of hearing loss, which can be determined by visiting an audiologist. Hearing loss is measured in decibels: the greater the decibel level, the louder the sound. People who have standard or typical hearing can hear sound at a loudness or intensity of zero to 15 decibels.
Find out how hearing loss affects what you can hear unaided - without hearing aids or cochlear implants - with the Degrees of Hearing Loss Chart.
What are some of the indicators and causes of hearing loss?
For 50 percent of all newborns with hearing loss, the cause is unknown or unidentifiable. In 25 percent of all cases, hearing loss is linked to risk factors such as prenatal infections, low birth weight, mechanical ventilation and other causes. The remaining 25 percent of all cases of hearing loss are caused by genetic factors. In addition, older children may develop hearing loss due to childhood illness or trauma
Children who have one or more of the following indicators for hearing loss may have a better than average chance of having a hearing loss.
Prenatal and Early Infancy Indicators
- Neonatal jaundice at birth requiring transfusion
- APGAR scores, which measure newborn vital signs such as pulse and respiration at birth, are lower than 4 at one minute and below 6 at five minutes
- Infection or illness during pregnancy, especially cytomegalovirus, rubella, herpes, syphilis or the flu
- Drug or alcohol consumption during pregnancy
- Birth weight below 3.5 pounds
- Admission to Newborn Intensive Care Unit for more than five days
- Craniofacial anomalies
- Use of ototoxic medications given in multiple courses or in combination with loop diuretics, Lasix
Genetic and Environmental Indicators
- Suspicion that your child may not be hearing well
- Visible malformations of the head, neck or the middle and/or inner ear structures
- Family history of permanent or progressive hearing loss in childhood
- Childhood diseases, especially meningitis, scarlet fever and mumps
- Chronic middle ear infections with persistent fluid in the ears for more than three months
- Childhood injuries, including skull fracture, sharp blows to the head or ears, loud noise exposure and damage resulting from items accidentally inserted into the ears.
Reprinted with the permission of the Alexander Graham Bell Association. © 2005 Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
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