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Middle Ear Issues - Checklist For Parents

We've no doubt that you've noticed the weather has now turned and has that distinctive arctic bite!

As is often the case at this time of year, we have been seeing an increase in children coming to our clinic with the dreaded Winter sniffles, and middle-ear-related hearing problems. We know that cold and flu-like symptoms, particularly in children, can sometimes signal the start of middle ear problems, and often these problems can persist long after those sniffles and other external signs have disappeared. So as parents, what should you be looking out for?

We've put together this checklist of 5 common signs to look out for:

1) Your child often doesn't respond when called

This may seems fairly obvious, but as many parents will find, this can sometimes be difficult to judge as your child's responses may vary greatly depending on what it is they aren't hearing (e.g. a misheard sentence with the word "lollies" may be the clincher!). A sudden increase in the use of the word "what" can also be a give-away.

2) Your child often daydreams or is inattentive

If your child isn't hearing well, it is going to be harder for them to stay focussed on the task at hand. As a result, it can often seem as though they are off with the fairies! A look of confusion can be a common sign that they are picking up only bits and pieces of what you say.

3) Your child displays disruptive behaviour

Again, if your child isn't hearing well, a coping strategy used by some is to act out. This often takes place in the classroom and helps them to take the focus off the fact that they have no idea what is going on in the lesson. If this is something you've noticed, particularly if it is a new behaviour, it may be worth investigating further.

4) Chronic nasal congestion and "mouth breathing"

As our nasal passages and sinuses are linked to our ears via the Eustachian tube, chronic nasal congestion can often coincide with middle ear problems and hearing loss. Kids with this problem will often display a (seemingly) forever runny nose and breathing exclusively from their mouth. Don't ignore this.

5) Lack of progression with speech development (specifically younger children)

This is a definite red flag that should not be ignored. If a child can't hear the way speech is supposed to sound, they are going to have a tough time learning how to do it properly themselves. In this instance it is best to get them tested sooner rather than later to exclude a hearing problem, and then if necessary, obtain a referral to a speech pathologist.

The good news is that for most children with middle ear problems, treatment is usually very effective, and provided it is timely, there will usually not be any long-lasting effects.

The main thing to remember is if you do have concerns, either speak with your GP or give us a call on 4638 1515.

Matthew and Jason Le Dilly are brothers who own and run Hello Hearing. They are experienced Masters-level audiologists who operate independently from hearing aid manufacturers. Unlike many other hearing clinics, they offer hearing devices from the full range of reputable manufacturers. For unbiased advice about your hearing health, give us a call today!

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