While most people associate hearing loss or impairment with older adults, it can also affect children. Although not as frequently, from time to time, a child may suffer from hearing issues, such as tinnitus as hearing loss.
It can be tougher to realize and diagnose this condition with children, so caregivers need to stay vigilant. In particular, parents should keep an eye out for tinnitus among their children.
What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a condition where a child hears a buzzing or ringing coming from inside their ear. The noise can be either continuous or sporadic. It can affect one or both ears and can be a high or low pitch. The noise can be a roaring, humming, hissing, or clicking sound for some children instead of the typical ringing.
Most children with tinnitus have normal hearing. However, the most severe cases can cause hearing impairments. Children with tinnitus most commonly have damage to the inner ear that causes the brain’s sound-processing system to malfunction, causing the ringing or buzzing sound of tinnitus.
Perhaps surprisingly, Tinnitus is about as common in children as it is in adults. About one-third of children suffer from it at some point, yet the condition often goes unnoticed. In many cases, the child is too young or unable to describe what they’re hearing. Some also tend to think of it as usual or may not be troubled by the experience enough to mention it.
With 1-in-12 children who experience tinnitus, the condition causes enough distress to interfere with sleep and concentration in school. In severe cases, kids may become highly stressed or depressed.
Tinnitus Causes and Symptoms
The root cause of this is the brain’s sound-processing system produces the noises associated with tinnitus. It does so in response to various factors, including damage to the inner ear and hearing impairments.
Some of the leading causes of tinnitus include cumulative noise exposure from listening to loud music on earphones or earbuds, a wax build-up in the ear canal, an ear or sinus infection, neck or head trauma, second-hand smoke exposure, or certain exposure antibiotics.
But how do you identify that your child has tinnitus? Depending on your child’s age and ability to express himself, as well as the severity of his tinnitus, symptoms may vary. A few more common symptoms include reports of ringing, buzzing, clicking, whistling, humming, hissing, or roaring sound, sensitivity to noise, poor attention and restlessness, tantrums, irritability, and your child holding their head or ears.
If your child doesn’t have a middle ear infection, then the primary care provider will likely refer your child to an ear, nose, and throat specialist. This specialist may conduct various tests, including a physical exam and thorough medical history, some questions regarding your child’s behavior and symptoms, hearing tests, including otologic and audiologic exams, a blood test, and a CT scan or MRI if necessary.
There is no specific treatment to cure tinnitus. Fortunately, most children outgrow tinnitus.
If the child’s medication caused the tinnitus, the specialist would recommend a change or discontinuation of the drug. In most medication-induced cases, the tinnitus resolves over time.
If noise exposure caused tinnitus, your child’s primary care provider would recommend stopping the use of earphones to listen to music and may encourage wearing earplugs when exposed to loud noises. In these cases, the tinnitus generally goes away once the inner ear has had time to heal.
When tinnitus is caused by hearing loss, hearing aids can significantly improve symptoms. Hearing environmental sounds helps filter out the tinnitus and makes it less noticeable for the child.
The goal here is also the management of the condition through various therapies. These therapies can help to relieve stress and fatigue, which have been known to exacerbate tinnitus. They also aim to retrain the brain’s response.
A good explanation of the condition from a doctor is often the first step towards helping a child. Putting a name to his state helps reassure your child that they will likely outgrow it and know that other kids experience the same thing. Having this understanding will significantly reduce their stress.
What Can You Do?
Improving your child’s general well-being can help to decrease stress and fatigue that is known to aggravate tinnitus. It will also improve their mood, making them better able to cope. Healthy eating, exercise, and a regular sleep schedule can also help greatly.
Using a fan or white-noise machine can blend with the tinnitus sound and make it less noticeable. This can help your child to feel in control of their condition, helps their nervous system adapt to tinnitus, and improves your child’s ability to concentrate.
A sound machine can be beneficial at night when many tinnitus sufferers have trouble falling asleep because the quiet may heighten the noise. Some children find soft background music to be more helpful than a white-noise machine.
Even if your child doesn’t have hearing loss, special hearing aids can amplify environmental sounds and turn down the tinnitus noises. Special hearing aids can also be programmed to filter out tinnitus. This will help your child’s brain focus on the environmental sounds instead of the tinnitus.
Most children outgrow tinnitus, even without therapy. Children who use stress management techniques, sound therapy, and hearing aids when appropriate report an improvement in their symptoms. A specialist’s care can help to produce the most successful outcomes, especially in lessening the day-to-day impact of tinnitus.
If you or your loved one need hearing help in the Las Vegas Area, look no further than the Hearing Associates of Las Vegas. The hearing authority in the area can help manage tinnitus symptoms and get your child on the path towards healthy hearing.