childhood hearing loss

Eustachian Tube Dysfunction: Definition, Symptoms and Treatments

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What is an Eustachian Tube?

The Eustachian tube is a narrow tube connecting the back of the nose and the middle ear. Normally, the tube is filled with air and opens when we yawn, swallow or chew. It functions to protect the middle ear from pathogens; to ventilate the middle ear, which allows the eardrum to work and vibrate properly; and, to help drain mucus from the middle ear.

What is Eustachian Tube Dysfunction?

Chronic blockage of the Eustachian tube is called Eustachian Tube Dysfunction (ETD). This can occur from inflammation of the mucous membranes from allergies or a sinus, nose or ear infection, or excessive lymphoid tissue around the tube. In some cases, the Eustachian tube just does not open or close properly. Young children (especially ages 1 to 6 years) are at particular risk because they have very narrow Eustachian tubes. Also, enlarged adenoids can block the opening of the Eustachian tube.

Blockage of the Eustachian tube causes the lining of the middle ear to absorb the trapped air. This creates a negative pressure that pulls the eardrum inward. When this occurs, people may experience muffled hearing, pain, tinnitus, reduced hearing, pressure, or problems with balance. Long-term ETD has been associated with damage to the middle ear and the eardrum from fluid buildup. If bacteria contaminates this fluid, a middle ear infection occurs. If chronic ETD remains untreated, it can lead to hearing loss.

Treatment of Eustachian Tube Dysfunction

Blocked Eustachian tubes can be relieved by nasal sprays, decongestants and antihistamines, which reduce inflammation and congestion. Medications or shots that treat allergies may also help. People can also relieve pressure by pinching their noses and "popping their ears," although this is not recommended if a cold or sinus infection is present because it can drive mucus into the middle ear and cause an ear infection. Recurrent Eustachian Tube Dysfunction requires the surgical placement of ear tubes, which allow pressure to equalize in the middle ear.

If you have experienced symptoms of ETD, contact our office or consult with your physician.

Child Health Day: Early Signs of Hearing Loss

Photo Courtesy of Today Show

Photo Courtesy of Today Show

Hearing loss in infants is a hidden disability. Infants can't express themselves or alert parents that there is a problem. That's why it's important for parents to understand and look for signs of hearing loss. Some of these include:

Newborn/Infant:

  • Not startling or awakening at loud noises (0-3 months)
  • Not calming at familiar voices (0-3 months)
  • Not responding (smiling, cooing) to your voice when spoken to (4-6 months)
  • Not turning toward sounds (4-9 months)
  • Not showing normal babbling development (4-9 months)

Baby/Toddler:

  • Not babbling different voices (9-15 months)
  • Not responding to his/her name (9-15 months)
  • Not responding to changes in your tone of voice (9-15 months)
  • Not repeating some sounds you make (9-15 months)

Regardless if your infant is showing signs of hearing loss, we hope that parents take advantage of our free hearing screenings next Tuesday in Crozet. The procedure is quick and painless for infants and provides peace of mind for parents. It's a win-win! 

More information about infant and childhood hearing loss can be found here on our web site. 

In the Back-to-School Hustle, Don’t Forget About Hearing!

Did you know that approximately five out of every 1,000 children have a hearing impairment, or that 25%-35% of kids with hearing loss in even just one ear risk failing a grade level?

Children learn a great deal through visual and auditory cues, so it’s imperative that their hearing and vision is checked regularly to help them reach their full potential.

We recommend that parents schedule a hearing test with an audiologist annually or at least every two years for the family – especially if your child has/had speech delays and/or learning disabilities. At the very least, we’d like to arm parents with the most common signs to watch for in school-aged children. These include:

  • Frequently turning up the TV, computer, phone or tablet
  • Having difficulty with phone conversations
  • Responding to questions inappropriately
  • Watching others closely to mimic their actions
  • Asking “what?” or “huh?” more often that what is normal for your child
  • Not responding when you call their name
  • Complaining of frequent earaches or headaches
  • Withdrawing academically or socially

Of course, every child is different. And, every parent knows their child best. But, if your child is experiencing two or more of the signs above and you have even the slightest hunch that it could be their hearing, please schedule a hearing screening with your family doctor or an audiologist! In the meantime, parents can help by:

  • Reducing Noise Exposure! - More than 5 million youth ages 6 to 19 have permanent hearing damage due to noise, one of the most preventable causes. Reducing noise from everyday devices, such as personal electronics, gaming systems, the car stereo, and the family TV, and providing hearing protection in noisy environments (e.g. concerts, firework shows, parades, loud stadiums) can help dramatically. A general rule of thumb for earbuds and headphones is if you are standing next to your child and can hear the noise, it’s too loud.
  • Talking to the Teachers/School - Teachers and administrators are crucial to helping kids hear their best during the school day, with classroom seating arrangements, loop systems, closed captioning, and other supportive options. They can also help identify possible signs of hearing loss if it’s suspected. 

We are here to listen and help! We offer free screenings, so if you suspect your child has a hearing loss, please contact us!

Signs of Infant Hearing Loss

On Tuesday, May 24, our Crozet office location is partnering with Crozet Eye Care to offer free hearing and vision tests for infants ages 6-12 months. Virginia is a state that requires hearing screenings for all newborns; however, according to the American Academy of Audiology, these screenings may miss auditory neuropathy, mild hearing loss, those with cytomegalovirus (CMV) - a member of the herpes virus family that can be transferred to an infant at birth and is known to cause permanent hearing loss, and infants susceptible to diseases like otitis. 

Hearing loss in infants is a hidden disability. Infants can't express themselves or alert parents that there is a problem. That's why it's important for parents to understand and look for signs of hearing loss. Some of these include:

Newborn/Infant:

  • Not startling or awakening at loud noises (0-3 months)
  • Not calming at familiar voices (0-3 months)
  • Not responding (smiling, cooing) to your voice when spoken to (4-6 months)
  • Not turning toward sounds (4-9 months)
  • Not showing normal babbling development (4-9 months)

Baby/Toddler:

  • Not babbling different voices (9-15 months)
  • Not responding to his/her name (9-15 months)
  • Not responding to changes in your tone of voice (9-15 months)
  • Not repeating some sounds you make (9-15 months)

Regardless if your infant is showing signs of hearing loss, we hope that parents take advantage of our free hearing screenings next Tuesday in Crozet. The procedure is quick and painless for infants and provides peace of mind for parents. It's a win-win! 

More information about infant and childhood hearing loss can be found here on our web site.