Most children will have episodes of earache (otalgia) as they grow up. During
these periods parents may notice that the child’s hearing appears to have deteriorated.
One of the causes of this may be due to a middle ear infection, otitis media,
which is often associated with a cold or cough. Usually this is intermittent and
reverts to normal when the infection resolves however occasionally it fail to
Signs and Symptoms
Often the first sign that a child has a problem with their hearing is when it
is noticed that the volume on the television has increased. A child may be constantly
shouting or is labelled as ignorant as they ignore people who are talking to them.
The reason for this is that the child doesn’t actually hear what is being said
to them. Another sign that the hearing is impaired often comes directly from the
school, where the child may be labelled a daydreamer or does not progress as quickly
as others in the class.
Complications of Disorder
Normally otitis media resolves spontaneously but occasionally the hearing remains
impaired due to a build up of fluid behind the eardrum (tympanic membrane). This
occurs because ventilation of the ear through the Eustachian tube ( tube connecting
the back of the nose with the middle ear) ceases and, as a result, is replaced
by thick fluid often called ‘glue’. The fluid in the middle ear does not allow
the bones of hearing to move freely and, as a result, the hearing is impaired.
This type of hearing loss is called a conductive hearing loss, as the ossicles
are not conducting noise optimally.
A simple examination of the ear is undertaken to confirm the reason for the hearing
loss and a hearing test will be arranged. The hearing test performed is very much
dependant on the age of the child. Children above the age of 5 can normally perform
a full hearing test. Below the age of 5 other cruder test are employed, however
they can give a good indication of hearing capabilities.
Medical – Risks and Complications
A child will normally grow out of this problem as the Eustachian tubes grow
and allow the ear to ventilate adequately. However it may be many years before
this occurs. The child’s hearing may be reduced for many years consequently
the development of the child may be delayed.