Pediatric Sensorineural Hearing Loss

What Causes Pediatric Sensorineural Hearing Loss?

Sensorineural hearing loss that occurs in children can be due to many conditions. The patient may be born with the hearing loss (congenital) or the hearing loss may occur after birth (acquired). Congenital hearing loss can be due to inner ear malformation, prenatal infections or exposure to toxins or certain medications, and genetic factors. Some of these hearing losses are associated with other congenital conditions (syndromic hearing loss) but most cases have the hearing loss only (non-syndromic hearing loss). Acquired hearing losses can also have genetic factors, but environmental factors such as premature birth, need for intensive care, infections, toxins, and other factors could be contributory. A medical evaluation should be performed to determine the nature of the hearing loss and any other associated conditions. The hearing loss needs to be detected as soon as possible since good hearing function is critical for the development of language and speech function.

What is the Evaluation Process?

In many states including Texas, there is a mandatory hearing screening program in place for all newborn patients, so many children with hearing loss are identified early. Parents of kids who fail their hearing screening should proceed with follow-up appointments to confirm the presence of hearing loss. Children with possible hearing loss should undergo a full ear nose and throat evaluation in addition to testing such as audiogram or electrical testing such as ABR or OAE.  Further studies such as MRI or CT may also be ordered.  Kids with possible genetic hearing loss may also undergo genetic testing that is sometimes available.

Treatment options

Most causes of sensorineural hearing loss are not directly treatable with surgery or medicine. For patients with significant hearing loss, a hearing aid is the most effective treatment. Some patients have hearing loss that is so severe on both sides that even hearing aids are not useful. These patients may benefit from cochlear implants.