If you've noticed that your child seems to have trouble following instructions lately, or if they don't seem to listen to you unless you're standing right in front of them, you may be tempted to simply chalk this behavior up to normal childhood stubbornness. However, in some cases, it could be indicative of mild to moderate hearing loss. Although just about every newborn in the U.S. is screened for hearing loss within just a few hours of birth, these tests don't always pick up less severe cases; and in other situations, a child may be born with perfect hearing but later become deaf or hard-of-hearing in one or both ears due to an infection, illness, or injury. What should you do to evaluate and treat your child if you suspect a hearing problem has developed? Read on to learn more about some of the causes of childhood hearing loss, as well as some of the devices available to quickly and unobtrusively restore your child's hearing.

What can cause hearing loss for children?

The inner ear is composed of a number of membranes and tubes designed to carry fluid through the ear and translate vibrations into individual sounds. Despite the size and importance of the job they do, these components are very small, even for adults. For children, these tiny tubes and thin membranes can be especially vulnerable to damage, particularly from infection or outside injury. Untreated inner or middle ear infections, which develop when bacteria from the mucous membranes flows back into the ear canal, can be especially harmful to a child's hearing -- and unfortunately, not all children show visible signs of an ear infection outside a slightly runny nose.

In other cases, a head injury or severe illness (like scarlet fever) could cause "nerve deafness" when the nerves that convey sounds from the eardrum to the brain become damaged. There's often no treatment for this short of rerouting these noisy signals straight from the ear to your child's brain through a cochlear implant.

What are your best options when treating a hard-of-hearing child? 

The best solution for your child largely depends upon the cause of his or her hearing loss. For example, children with nerve deafness won't be aided much by in-ear hearing aids, as these simply amplify sounds within the ear -- not much help if the pathway between the ear and the brain has been damaged beyond repair. If this is the case, a cochlear implant or permanent hearing aid can provide some benefit by essentially replacing these nerves, translating vibrations into sound, and sending these sounds straight to your child's brain for processing. 

In other cases, your child's hearing loss may simply be caused by a buildup of ear wax or inflammation of the inner ear following a long-term ear infection. These issues are much easier to treat; heavy ear wax deposits can be irrigated or even surgically removed, while inflammation can be reduced with steroids so that the level of permanent hearing loss (if any) can be accurately assessed.

If your child is still dealing with hearing difficulty after these preliminary steps have been taken, he or she may need to be fitted for a small in-ear hearing aid. Unlike the clunky and unattractive hearing aids used a few decades ago, these hearing aids are sleek and unobtrusive, and available in a variety of sizes so that they can grow with your child. Many of today's hearing aids can also help easily pick out individual voices from background noise, especially helpful for children who are often less adept than adults at tuning out distractions.

For more information about your child's hearing aid options, contact a company like Audiology Consultants, P.C.