Your baby can hear with one ear. This is an
asset that must be protected. There are three additional issues that may have
an impact on hearing in either ear through your child’s life:
The ear naturally produces wax (or cerumen)
to protect the ear canal. Ears are usually self-cleaning. The wax and dirt move
away from the ear drum to the opening of the ear canal and the wax can be
removed with a damp cloth.
Sometimes there is a build up of wax in the
ear canal and it blocks sound from reaching the ear drum. This will make it
more difficult for your child with UHL to hear. A build up of wax in young
children is usually only noticed during routine ear examinations at the doctor
Ear drops that soften the wax are available
from the chemist and this may be all that is needed. Do not insert any foreign
objects into the ear canal!
Always visit your GP if you are concerned.
Ear infections are common in young children
and can cause temporary hearing loss and impact on speech development and
Ear infections can occur in
the outer ear (otitis externa) or the middle ear (otitis media).
Otitis externa is an
inflammation of the outer ear. The infection may be bacterial or fungal. The
outer ear is often painful and sensitive to touch and your child may have a
temperature. Otitis externa may affect hearing if it persists.
Acute otitis media is a
bacterial inflammation of the middle ear. Fluid builds up behind the ear drum
causing pain and possible fever.
Otitis media with effusion or
‘glue ear’ occurs when fluid remains trapped behind the ear drum. A child with
glue ear may have no symptoms but the doctor can see the fluid during an ear
examination. If the fluid remains in middle ear for a long time or returns
frequently, it can affect a child’s hearing.
Preventing ear infections
While you may not be able to prevent ear
infections, you can certainly reduce your child’s risk of ear infections.
Treating ear infections
Immunise against pneumococcal
disease. This is a major cause of otitis media. Children with a pneumococcal
middle ear infection will have a temperature and ear pain and can be quite
irritable. Most pneumococcal infections can be prevented with vaccines. The
pneumococcal conjugate (7vPCV) vaccination is part of the routine immunisation
schedule for babies at 2, 4 and 6 months.9
- Wash your hands to prevent the
spread of the germs that cause colds and flu.
- Avoid smoking. Babies exposed
to smoking have more ear infections.10
Mild infections can be treated with
paracetomol (such as Panadol).
See your family
doctor if your child:
- Has a high fever or bad earache
- Has an ear discharge that lasts more than 24 hours
- Seems to be getting worse or you are worried at any time.
If you are worried
about your child’s hearing, arrange an appointment with your family doctor
(GP). Your GP will examine your child’s ears and should be able to tell if glue
ear is present. If there is any pain or sign of infection your GP may prescribe
a course of antibiotics. Your GP may want to wait to see if the glue ear clears
up by itself before referring your child to an ENT specialist.11
Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) in an
increasing problem in society. “The effect of noise is cumulative, based on
frequency of participation, total time of exposure and intensity of the sound
(level in decibels). If you need to raise your voice or shout in order to be
understood in background noise, then the noise has the potential to damage
hearing.12“ Of particular concern to hearing professionals is the
impact of noisy leisure activities on hearing. Your child with UHL needs to be
taught from an early age about protecting their hearing from hazardous levels
Children learn from observing their
parents. Start today to protect your hearing
so your child will learn from your example.
Protecting you and your child from noise
your child from the early years on the importance of ear protection.
- Turn down
the volume when listening to music in a confined space.
- Turn down
the volume on personal stereo headsets. The volume of a personal stereo should
be at a level where you can still hear someone speaking to you an arm’s
length away. Use of noise-cancelling headphones can also help to eliminate
external background noise and allow the MP3 player to be played at lower
- Be aware
of equipment around the home that is loud and potentially damaging to
hearing, e.g., lawnmower, leaf blower, hair dryer and toys.
wear hearing protectors when carrying out noisy tasks and help to develop
good habits in your children from the early years.
Disclaimer: This website is for general information only and is not intended as a substitute for independent professional advice.