Posted in Medical

“Z” is for Zika (and other viruses that cause hearing loss)


The Zika outbreak last year brought awareness to the sad reality that certain viruses in the expectant mother can cause significant health problems to the unborn child. Many of those “Zika babies” are born with physical deformities or develop other deficits– which studies now show to include hearing loss. Even if not present immediately, the child should be monitored as the hearing loss can set in later on- just as we see for children who are prenatally exposed to CMV or herpes simplex.

Similarly, the Rubella (“German Measles”) epidemic in the US between 1962-1965 left many of those born to infected moms, with permanent hearing loss. Many children with hearing loss went undiscovered for years, due to the lack of early hearing detection/intervention programs at the time. Nowadays, we are fortunate to have many institutions in place to try to “catch” those children with hearing loss before they fall behind their hearing peers. And of course, those who have hearing loss owing to Rubella should recognize that there are many more options for treatment nowadays than perhaps were offered to them in the past. Speak to an audiologist who can recommend a custom plan based on your unique history and needs.

Here’s to the final letter of the BetterHearingABC’s, and to “Health/y/ears”!

Posted in Medical

G is for Genetics Lesson

Some numbers for you… hearing loss is genetic 50% of the time (the other 50% is environmental). Nonetheless, more than 90% of kids with hearing loss are born to hearing parents. Why? Each parent has 1 copy of the mutated gene (aka “carrier”) which does not cause any symptoms on its own, but it does produce a hearing loss when the child inherits 2 copies of the mutation (such as Connexin 26 within the Ashkenazi community). Among those with genetic hearing losses, 2/3 have hearing loss and nothing else. The remaining 1/3 have various syndromes which include hearing loss as well as other clinical findings (eg: visual impairment, heart problems, abnormal facial structure, intellectual disability, etc.). When a child is diagnosed with hearing loss, a workup is typically done to investigate the cause and rule out any co-occuring health conditions.


Posted in Medical

F: Five Things You Didn’t Know About Fluid

  1. It is most common in children under age 2, and it typically goes away after age 6 as the anatomy matures.
  2. The fluid is behind the eardrum– inside the body. It does not come from getting bathwater in the ears. There is a strong genetic component among children with persistent fluid.
  3. Your child might not complain of any symptoms, since it is not painful like an ear infection (picture above depicts infected ear, but fluid will accumulate in that same area). It can coincide with frequent colds, heavy breathing, or snoring. 
  4. The most common effect is behavioral: the fluid acts as a barrier, causing a temporary hearing loss. Children who are of developmental age and not hearing consistently or clearly may act out or lag behind.
  5. Monitoring is key. When your pediatrician observes fluid in your child’s ear, he/she will usually take note of how long it is lasting. Most cases resolve within 4-6 weeks, on their own (again, since there is no infection, antibiotics are not the answer), with no consequences for the typically developing child. If it is ongoing or if developmental delay is suspected, you will be referred to an audiologist to see to what extent it is affecting the hearing, and based on those results, a treatment plan will be formed. Tubes definitely have their purpose, but they are not always the answer.