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Sick ears can give kids hearing loss

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Most kids get sick ears (middle ear disease or Otitis Media) at some point when they are growing up. Indigenous kids get it a lot.

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When kids get sick ears it can affect their hearing, and cause conductive hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss can effect children’s behaviour and development. Children’s behaviour at home, childcare, preschool, school and on the sports ground, may show you they are having trouble hearing. This will help you learn more about ears, how we hear, middle ear infection (otitis media), conductive hearing loss and the behaviours to look for that can help you identify a problem. Knowing what to look for can help you take steps to prevent and manage the illness and its effect on kids lives.

How do we hear with a healthy ear?

  • Sound gets caught by the outside part of the ear (outer ear) and moves down the ear canal to the ear drum.
  • The sound makes the eardrum vibrate and the small bones in the middle ear vibrate too.
  • The small bones vibrating send sound to the inner ear and the brain.
  • The brain then helps kids works out the meaning of the sounds they hear.

 

What is Otitis Media? middle ear diagram

  • Little kids pick up middle ear infection easily – often after having a sore throat or a common cold.
  • The infection causes fluid to build up in the middle ear.
  • Too much fluid in the ear puts lots of pressure on the ear drum and makes it burst, resulting in a sticky discharge – this is otitis media.

What is Conductive Hearing Loss?

  • Kids with sick ears (Otitis Media) often have poor hearing. Conductive Hearing Loss happens when fluid that has built up in the middle ear (otitis media) or a hole in the ear drum prevents sound from passing freely through the ear.
  • Many little kids have Conductive Hearing Loss especially in Aboriginal communities.
    ..and it comes and goes
  • But if this happens a lot, and little kids have lots of ear infections that are not treated, little kids can get permanent hearing loss.

Just like middle ear infections come and go with treatment, so does the conductive hearing loss it causes. It can be hard to detect because:

  • it is not always painful to the child.
  • Kids may cope when its quiet
  • Kids may cope when talking bout a familiar topic with someone they know

Things to look for….?