What to Do When Your Child Has a Disease You’ve Never Heard Of

Hearing loss

We often think of such things as sleep disordered breathing, vocal cord paralysis, or hearing loss as things most commonly had by an older population. However, for some children, these kinds of things can also be a reality. Many children experience having their tonsils taken out to avoid recurring inflammation or infection and in some cases, it can even help reduce sleep disordered breathing. But how do children happen to have hearing loss or vocal cord paralysis at such young ages? Hearing loss can happen from something as simple as an ear infection — something almost 90% of children have by age two. (And although you shouldn’t necessarily freak out if your child gets an ear infection, you should be monitoring it closely and take him or her to a doctor immediately if symptoms worsen.) Vocal cord paralysis can happen as a result as a virus as well, or even as an accidental injury during surgery — so if your child was in the hospital for some kind of surgical work in that area, it could be a result of that.
How Many Kids Have Some Kind of Hearing Issue and Why?
Around one in every thousand children will have significant hearing loss that greatly impacts their ability. And sensorineural hearing loss happens to around 40,000 newborns annually. This type of hearing loss can be attributed to a few different things. One such cause can be genetic. Genes can be blamed for between 50-60% of hearing loss in children. If the mother contracts an infection during the pregnancy or is exposed to environmental toxins or there’s a complication during or after the birth, this can also lead to hearing problems. About 30% of babies who experience hearing loss have those factors to blame. In extreme cases, ear infections can even cause some hearing loss. Don’t panic though — almost 85% of children have had an ear infection by their third birthday and 30% of kids have had over three infections. Most children do not suffer hearing loss when they get an ear infection.
Luckily, surgery to repair the eardrum can help 85-90% of the time. There are also audiologists and other specialists who can help your child speak without hypernasal speech and gain some kind of auditory function.
Are Enlarged Tonsils Dangerous?
If you’re worried about your child’s sleeping habits and notice that he or she has enlarged tonsils, you might want to take them to an ear, nose, and throat doctor. Sinus infections and other such infections can sometimes lead to enlarged tonsils, which in turn can lead to tonsillitis. In such a case, you’ll generally have the tonsils removed. It’s a fairly common procedure — numbers show that between 300,000-400,000 tonsillectomies are done on children and teens every year.
If your child has enlarged tonsils and you have them removed, that may also help alleviate their sleep disordered breathing. It’s been shown that children who have larger tonsils were almost four times more likely to have sleep disordered breathing. In fact, interestingly enough, 80% of tonsillectomies are performed to help alleviate the symptoms of obstructive sleep problems (commonly abbreviated OSA). Only 20% are done to eliminate recurring infections. This is a huge change from thirty years ago, when around 90% of tonsillectomies were to get rid of recurring infections!
What About Vocal Cord Paralysis?
This is something that is not terribly common for children to have, but can happen with certain viruses or nerve damage that can occur with surgeries. In many cases, treatment will involve vocal cord surgery to correct the problem. There are a few pediatric centers that specialize in this kind of treatment and can offer you the best advice if your child faces it. You may also want to consider enrolling your child in voice therapy afterward if he or she is already talking.
Children can contract almost anything adults can, although we often associate certain disorders or ailments with a specific age group. There are plenty of resources available to help both parents and children get through difficult times and make the situation better for everyone.

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