About Deafness by Birth .
Deafness by birth is a condition where the child is born deaf. It is also called as congenital deafness. Deafness by birth can be caused by genetic issues or non-genetic issues. Discovering that the child is born deaf can be very devastating for the parents. Hearing issues are very common among children and in most the cases with right treatment provided at the right time the condition can be reversed back. It is important to understand that even if the hearing is not restored back, these children will grow up normally and have the potential to lead a normal life.
Causes of Deafness by Birth
Non-genetic Causes of Deafness by Birth
Studies have shown that about 25% of the cases with deafness by birth are caused by non-genetic issues. The most possible causes are listed below.
- Babies born with low birth weight
- Premature births
- Infections transmitted from the mother to the child during pregnancy (E.g. German measles/rubella, herpes simplex virus, cytomegalovirus etc.)
- Injuries to baby during its birth
- Birth complications such as Rh complications
- Babies born with jaundice, meningitis, measles etc.
- Intake of alcohol and other toxic products during pregnancy
- Maternal diabetes or gestational diabetes
- Poor oxygenation or anoxia
- Toxaemia during pregnancy
- Problems with structures of the inner ear (developmental issues)
Genetic Causes of Deafness by Birth
Majority of the cases of deafness by birth are caused by genetic factors. In some cases, the deafness develops at a later stage in the child’s life. The genes that cause loss of hearing can be inherited from one or both parents. In some cases it has been seen that both parents are fine, but the child is born deaf. This may be because the parents may be a carrier of the gene. Genetic syndromes often associated with deafness by birth are listed below.
- Usher syndrome
- Down syndrome
- Crouzon syndrome
- Alport syndrome
- Waardenburg syndrome
- Trecher Collins syndrome
How Can You Identify Deafness by Birth?
New born babies are made to undergo a hearing screening test before they are discharged from the hospital. Any loss of hearing is detected by this test. The screening tests involve two non-invasive objective tests as listed below.
- Otoacoustic Emission (OAE)
- Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR)
- The United States of America have come up with the United States Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) program for diagnosis of hearing loss in infants before 3 months of age and treat these children before they turn 6 months of age.
- Other simple techniques which may be used to check for deafness by birth in infants are listed below.
- Startling upon exposure to loud noise
- Responding to someone’s voice by smiling, cooing or crying
- Stops crying when someone familiar starts talking
- Waking up from sleep when exposed to sounds.
Absence of the above can be because of hearing issues. However, these are not reliable tests and have to be confirmed by a physician or a paediatric audiologist.
What are the Treatment for Deafness by Birth?
Treatment of deafness by birth depends on the cause of the deafness and severity of the condition. The most common treatment modalities include.
Hearing Aids. Hearing aids are external devices that are worn on the ears. Hearing aids can be worn as early as 1 month old. The device can be altered as per the needs of the child and are available in various shapes and sizes.
Cochlear Implants to Treat Deafness by Birth. Cochlear implants are electronic devices that are placed in the inner ear to facilitate hearing. These are used only if the hearing does not improve with hearing aids.
Therapy for Children with Deafness by Birth. The child may require a combination of speech therapy and assistive listening along with the hearing aids or cochlear implants to improve his or her hearing skills.
Counselling. It is often very difficult for the parents to accept that the child is born deaf. They often go into denial and are quite emotionally disturbed. Professional counselling in often recommended in such cases so that they can accept the situation and take rational decision in providing the right treatment to the child at the right time. It is important to make the parents understand that if the hearing is not addressed, it can affect the child’s speech and language development which in turn can affect the well-being of the child.
Deafness by birth is a very challenging situation and needs to be identified very carefully. Treatment must also be provided at the earliest so that the other areas of development of the child are not affected and the child can reach proper developmental milestones at the correct age. If proper care is not provided, it is very likely that the child may also suffer emotionally and may have issues with self-esteem, body image, and confidence to name a few. Hence, the initial assessment of a child at birth must also include a screening for deafness by birth to avoid any delay in identification.