Central Mississippi Down Syndrome Society

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Central Mississippi Down Syndrome Society

667 US-51 Suite C
Ridgeland, MS 39157
601-385-DOWN (3696)

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How Down Syndrome Affects Hearing

Hearing Loss and Ear Infections in Children with Down Syndrome

Ear infections occur frequently in infancy and early childhood in all children. But, because of anatomic differences in the ears of children with Down syndrome (narrow and short canals), they are more susceptible to accumulations of fluid behind the eardrum. This is known as Otitis Media with Effusion (OME). These problems result from fluid retention and inflammation in the middle ear; sometimes with infection. The presence of fluid makes it more difficult for the child to hear, resulting in fluctuating conductive hearing loss. Children should be followed by their pediatrician and otolaryngologist (ENT) and visit an audiologist for auditory testing. This testing can be done soon after birth. Hearing testing should also be done every six months until three years of age and annually through age 12 years. Treatment usually involves either an antibiotic regimen or the insertion of tubes to drain the fluid. These recommendations follow the schedule found in the Down Syndrome Health Care Guidelines.

How Hearing Loss Affects Speech and Language Development

Speech and language are learned through hearing, vision, and touch. Hearing is very important to speech, and studies have shown that speech and language development are negatively affected by chronic fluid accumulation. Children with Down syndrome often have fluctuating hearing loss due to the frequency of fluid accumulation. When fluid is present, hearing is affected; as fluid drains, hearing improves. When children do not consistently hear well, it is difficult for them to learn how sounds and events are related, e.g. the ring of the telephone or someone calling them. It is important for parents to ensure that their child is hearing well. Pediatricians and otolaryngologists have great success in treating fluid accumulation, but treatment requires close monitoring.

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