Fluctuating hearing loss is defined as a hearing loss that frequently changes. Fluctuating hearing loss may be conductive, caused by a problem with the outer or middle ear that prevents sound from traveling through, or sensorineural, caused by a problem with the sensory hair cells within the inner ear. In this article we review how fluctuating hearing loss can affect language and social development.
Causes of Fluctuating Hearing Loss
Common causes for fluctuating hearing loss include:
- Ear infections.
- Impacted earwax.
- Noise exposure.
- Meniere’s disease.
- Autoimmune inner ear disease.
- Auditory neuropathy.
- Enlarged vestibular aqueduct syndrome.
The most common cause of fluctuating hearing loss in children is middle ear infections.
Effect on Speech and Language Development
For a young child who is still acquiring speech and language, fluctuating hearing loss can cause a noticeable delay. This is because children relay on their sense of hearing to acquire correct pronunciation and grammar. The most common sign of hearing loss in terms of speech and language development is errors in speech production.
For school-age children, fluctuating hearing loss can impact academic performance. When a child can’t hear well, especially in a noisy environment like a classroom or The Boys & Girls Club, they miss out on important instructions from their teacher and have trouble participating. This can cause their grades to slip and ultimately lead to them falling behind.
Effect on Social-Emotional Wellbeing
Oftentimes a child with undiagnosed fluctuating hearing loss is accused of “hearing only what they want to hear,” or being described as:
- Having attention problems.
- Being insecure.
- Being distractible.
- Being socially immature.
- Not wanting to participate.
- Lacking self-esteem.
These labels can be damaging to social-emotional wellbeing.
Importance of Managing Fluctuating Hearing Loss
Regular screenings at school are key to identifying and treating fluctuating hearing loss early. In addition, teachers should know the signs of hearing problems and communicate their concerns with parents. Parents should then seek medical management promptly.
Conductive hearing loss may be managed by treating the underlying condition, like an ear infection or impacted earwax. In the case of permanent sensorineural hearing loss, hearing aids are the gold standard treatment. For more information about fluctuating hearing loss or to schedule an appointment with a hearing expert, call Willamette Ear, Nose, Throat and Facial Plastic Surgery today.
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