Hearing loss isn’t always a sign of getting older. Health experts at Lee Memorial Health System say it can happen at any age, even birth. One to two percent of healthy newborns are diagnosed with hearing loss. Even though newborn hearing screenings have been required by Florida state law since 2000, health experts say infants can develop hearing problems in the first three to six months of life.
Lee Memorial Pediatric ear, nose and throat physician Dr. Stuart Morgenstein says there are times when a newborn passes the hearing screening but develops hearing loss later. “Sometimes we don’t pick up the hearing loss until they are older and those kids are often speech delayed, showing behavioral issues, some have dropped grades in school.”
He says it’s important to notice how a child responds to noise within the first three to six months. “Does the baby startle? Does the baby turn its head to loud sounds? After a few months the baby should be responding to familiar voices. By 15 months they should be saying single words.”
“If the child shows signs of hearing loss within three to six months old, there are some treatments doctors can do, depending on the cause” said Dr. Morgenstein. “If it’s due to fluid behind the ear drum, we can put a tube in and drain the fluid and that takes care of the loss. Sometimes, we’ll use hearing aids. Now, if there is profound hearing loss and the hearing aids are not beneficial you could do what’s called a cochlear implant.” The cochlear implant can be surgically placed in both ears, if necessary, in children as young as six month old.
He says children born with infection, genetic syndrome, or even low birth rate are at a higher risk for hearing loss, making it important to catch the signs early.
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Lee Memorial Health System in Fort Myers, FL is the largest network of medical care facilities in Southwest Florida and is highly respected for its expertise, innovation and quality of care. For nearly a century, we’ve been providing our community with everything from primary care treatment to highly specialized care services and robotic assisted surgeries.
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