Hearing loss in cerebral palsy patients is common, but neither directly causes the other to occur.
Hearing impairments can occur in one or both ears; so one ear can be completely normal, even if the other is damaged.
In this article, we’ll go over the 3 types of hearing loss, its causes, how it affects cerebral palsy patients, and management techniques.
Let’s get started!
Types of Hearing Loss in Cerebral Palsy Patients
Hearing loss can be slight, mild, moderate, severe, or profound.
It can also vary by the location (inner, middle, outer ear) that’s affected.
The 3 main types of hearing loss that occur in cerebral palsy patients are:
1. Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss affects the transmission of sound in the middle and outer ear.
This can make sounds seem muffled and unclear.
Luckily, conductive hearing loss is often temporary and can be treated through surgery, medications, or hearing aids.
2. Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there’s damage to the nerve pathways in the inner ear.
It’s the most common type of permanent hearing loss and generally can’t be treated with medicine or surgery.
However, hearing aids may be able to help your child manage their hearing impairment.
3. Mixed Hearing Loss
Mixed hearing loss is when a person experiences a combination of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.
In other words, both the inner ear and middle/outer ear are affected.
What Causes Hearing Loss in Cerebral Palsy Patients?
Although the prevalence of hearing loss in cerebral palsy patients tends to vary from study to study, it typically falls between 7-37.5%.
This should be no surprise because many risk factors that cause cerebral palsy can also cause hearing problems.
Risk factors that can cause cerebral palsy and hearing loss include:
- Genetic abnormalities
- Lack of oxygen to the developing brain
- Premature birth
How Does Hearing Loss Affect Cerebral Palsy Patients?
Hearing loss can impede a child’s language and social skills.
The younger your child is, the more difficult it will be to notice a hearing impairment.
Be sure to watch your child’s reactions when you speak to them, or when sudden bursts of sound occur.
If they ask you to repeat yourself often or altogether don’t answer, get a hearing evaluation.
Early intervention is key to preventing communication problems as your child develops.
Treatments for Hearing Loss in Cerebral Palsy Patients
Treatment options depend on the type and severity of your child’s hearing loss.
As mentioned earlier, most conductive hearing loss is temporary and can be treated through surgery, medications, or hearing aids.
In contrast, cerebral palsy patients with sensorineural hearing loss may only benefit from hearing aids or cochlear implants.
Surgery is performed to remove whatever is blocking sound from reaching the inner ear.
This can include problems like deformity, dysfunction from head trauma, fluid buildup, tumors, and otosclerosis (a bone growth disorder).
Doctors might prescribe antibiotics or antifungal medications to treat ear infections and fluids.
Powerful steroids may also be used either orally or by injection to reduce inflammation and swelling in the ear.
Hearing aids are devices that you wear on your ear to amplify sound so that you can hear sounds more clearly.
They don’t heal ear damage, but as long as you’re wearing it, hearing aids do allow you to hear better.
In cases of severe sensorineural hearing loss, a cochlear implant can help!
To clarify, a cochlear implant cannot restore normal hearing. Instead, they work around the damaged part of the ear and directly stimulate the auditory nerve.
Cochlear implants consist of an internal piece that is surgically inserted under the skin and an external component that you place on your ear.
They process sounds into electric impulses and send them off to various frequency electrodes, which gives off the sensation of sound.
The sound you experience with a cochlear implant is different from natural sound. However, younger children tend to adapt to it fairly quickly.
Managing Cerebral Palsy and Hearing Loss
Managing hearing loss and cerebral palsy can be overwhelming.
Cerebral palsy affects movement while hearing loss makes it difficult to understand directions, have conversations, and be aware of what’s going on around you.
You’re dealing with two separate conditions that can interfere with one another.
For example, children that only have hearing impairments can learn sign language to communicate.
However, children with cerebral palsy and hearing impairments might not be able to use sign language because they lack motor control.
Take your child to see an audiologist. They’ll evaluate the severity of your child’s hearing impairment and provide helpful management tips.
Also, consider taking your child to see a speech and language therapist. There, children can learn how to effectively communicate and improve their social skills.
Cerebral Palsy and Hearing Loss: Summary
Cerebral palsy and hearing loss don’t share a direct relation, but they do occur together often enough that they are associative conditions for one another.
Hearing loss can be very mild and difficult to notice or profound to the point of deafness.
Depending on the severity of your child’s hearing loss, treatment methods can be minimal or invasive. There’s even hope for people irreversible hearing loss with devices like cochlear implants!
If you think your child may be showing signs of a hearing impairment, don’t hesitate to see a doctor.
Early intervention is best to prevent or work through speech, language, cognitive, and social difficulties.
Hopefully, this article helped you get a better understanding of what to expect, signs to look out for, and treatment options for hearing loss in cerebral palsy patients.