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Alarming hearing loss in young children

Nearly one in five children aged between 9 and 11 suffer hearing loss. Some of these children may even have permanent hearing loss. Researchers have found a link between frequent ear infections and the permanent hearing loss of these children.

For the first time in the Netherlands, Erasmus MC researchers have assessed the prevalence of hearing loss in a large group of young children without symptoms. They published their results online on Friday 28 July in the scientific journal JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery.
Loss of hearing is a major problem worldwide and often irreversible. If it occurs in early childhood it can hinder children in their development, which can lead to poorer performance at school. The national hearing screening program has shown that a small group of children are born with hearing loss. But it seems that a much larger group of children suffer permanent hearing loss at a young age.

Loud music
"Hearing damage and the burdensome consequences have often been discussed, but real measurements are lacking", says researcher Carlijn le Clercq. In order to get a better understanding of this and the factors that play a role in loss of hearing, it is important to know how things stand with the hearing of young children before they are exposed to loud music when going out. Our study has shown that nearly one in five young children do not hear optimally."  

The researchers tested the hearing of more than 5,000 children. A total of 17.5% of the children had some form of hearing loss. For some children this is a temporary loss of hearing usually caused by things such as a cold or an ear infection. But it is likely that almost eight percent of the children suffer permanent hearing loss. Le Clercq says: "Although most children suffer minor hearing loss, which they may not even notice at this stage, the number of young children affected by a loss is alarmingly high. Particularly if you consider that these children haven’t reached puberty yet, the time when hearing loss as a result of loud music in discos or at music festivals is most likely to occur. We also see a clear relationship between frequent ear infections in early childhood and permanent hearing damage."

Generation R
The scientific article can be found online on the website of the journal JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery. The study is part of Generation R, a population study on the growth, development, and health of children growing up in Rotterdam. The children are monitored from early fetal life through young adulthood.

Date published: 31 July 2017.

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