Posted by Christina Jedra February 8, 2013 10:00 AM
The following was submitted by Loleata Wigall, President of Atlantic Audiology, Inc.:
Sometimes it is difficult to tell if children are not listening or really have a hearing problem. During the winter months when children develop runny noses and colds, their hearing may be affected. Colds or runny noses tend to cause mucus and stuffiness. This mucus moves and can cause a temporary fluctuation in a person’s hearing.
Stuffiness usually stays in the sinus area and nasal passages. For adults, ear infections are rare since the Eustachian tube is slanted upward. Generally speaking, fluid or stuffiness does not travel uphill. However, in children, the Eustachian tubes are parallel with the back of the throat. Mucus can flow into the Eustachian tubes and into the middle ear.
The middle ear should be filled with air, not fluid. The three smallest bones in the body, the hammer, anvil and stirrup are in the middle ear and transfer the sound into the inner ear. If the middle ear is filled with fluid, the bones cannot move and causes a temporary hearing loss. Think of mucus as a fluid that moves. As fluid moves, the hearing may fluctuate.
Tympanometry tests the mobility of the eardrum or tympanic membrane. The test only takes a few minutes to do. The Tympanometry does not rely on a response of the patient, so it is ideal to use with children. The machine measures the resistance of the eardrum which says if fluid is present behind the eardrum or not. It is used by audiologists and pediatricians to monitor movement of the eardrum.
An ear infection is usually treatable. Treatment may include medications such as decongestants and antibiotics. If a child has multiple ear infections a myringotomy or tubes in the eardrums may be recommended by an Ear, Nose and Throat physician. The tubes are placed in the eardrums to allow drainage of any fluid and help the child hear better.
If your child has had a cold and now doesn’t seem to be hearing as well, it is important to see the pediatrician for an evaluation. Also, audiologists can do a hearing test to see if there is a hearing problem. Be sure to follow up and not just wonder if your child is ignoring you.