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Treatments for hearing impairment in children vary based on the type and cause of loss. If the loss is due to a structural problem within the ear, assertive technologies can help to amplify sounds, or the ear may simply need to be cleaned or drained. In losses due to damage to the neural pathways of hearing, the loss may be uncorrectable and require the child, families, and educators to learn alternative forms of communication.
Hearing loss is broadly separated into two sub-types: congenital and acquired loss of function. Conductive hearing impairment in children is usually a temporary problem. If the child suffers from an excessive buildup of earwax or other foreign particles in the ear, a thorough cleaning and careful monitoring may permanently restore hearing. Some children also suffer hearing loss due to ear infections. This may be treated with medications or surgery to correct ear problems.
Ear tubes are the most common surgery for hearing impairment in children. Children who have frequent ear infections may be fitted with tiny tubes that help normalize the pressure within the middle ear. Ear tubes may also be placed to help drain excessive ear wax or discharge. These tubes are usually in place for at least a year, but may fall out or be removed after six months.
Permanent hearing impairment in children may be treated with specialized hearing aids. These devices are custom fitted to the child's ear and amplify sounds. An audiologist, a doctor who specializes in hearing, can help to fine tune the volume level of the device and help to maintain proper fit and functioning of the hearing aid. Parents should receive training when their children are fitted with a hearing aid to both care for the device and help the child adapt to using it.
The type of hearing aid depends on the type of hearing impairment in children, their age, and their tolerance. Young children are usually fitted with behind-the-ear aids. This type of device can have the ear mold changed as the child grows. Children are also more likely to accept this type of device as it is more comfortable for their ears. Older children may use devices that fit inside the ear as their growth slows down and they have more experience with hearing aids.
For hearing impairment in children that is deemed severe, an audiologist may recommend cochlear implants. This is a tiny device that detects sounds in the environment and then helps to translate those sounds into neural impulses. After a cochlear implant is placed, the child will likely need intensive therapy to learn how to hear and speak. Many doctors suggest early implantation of this device to help avoid social and educational deficits.
Aside from cochlear implants, children with complete hearing loss have few technological options. This type of hearing impairment requires copious treatment to help the child adapt to her disability. Children may learn to communicate through sign language, lip reading, or spoken language. They may be placed in special classrooms or schools for the deaf.
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