The ear is a complex organ that allows us to comprehend a wide variety of different sounds. It is composed of three main sections: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. The outer ear, known as the pinna or auricle, is responsible for picking up sound waves and focusing them into the ear canal. These waves then hit the eardrum, causing the bones in the middle ear to vibrate. These vibrations are transferred to the cochlea of the inner ear, where they are sensed by the hair cells and transmitted to the brain via nerve impulses.
Hearing loss in children can result from a dysfunction in one or more of these important hearing structures, or because of problems of nerve conduction within the brain. The three main types of hearing loss are as follows:
Conductive hearing impairment occurs as a result of problems with the middle or outer ear. In most cases, these hearing problems can be effectively resolved with medical treatment.
If the tiny hair cells within the cochlea of the inner ear become damaged or destroyed, sensory hearing loss can result. Depending on the severity of the condition, a child with sensory hearing loss may be able to hear some sounds, hear only in quiet environments, or hear nothing at all. Unfortunately, this type of hearing loss is typically permanent.
Neural hearing loss is caused by damage to the nervous tissue between the structures of the inner ear and the brain. Because the nervous impulses from the ear are obstructed or cannot be carried, the brain cannot comprehend sound.
Problems with hearing in children are most commonly caused by birth defects, with about three in every 1,000 children affected by a hearing impairment upon birth. Traumatic injuries, as well as infections such as meningitis, can also result in hearing loss. Although ear infections can also result in hearing loss, it is rare that hearing problems from these infections last for the long-term.
If you suspect that your child is having problems hearing, consider scheduling a consultation with one of the pediatric healthcare experts at Sunrise Children’s Hospital. Contact our Consult-A-Nurse physician referral line at (702) 731-5437 to find a doctor today.