Conductive deafness occurs when sound is unable to pass efficiently through the outer and middle ear to the cochlea (inner ear) and auditory (hearing) nerve. The most common cause of conductive deafness in childhood is glue ear (fluid in the middle ear) which is usually a temporary condition. Glue ear (also known as OME – otitis media with effusion) affects about one in five pre-school children at any time. Conductive deafness can also be caused by a perforation (hole) in the eardrum or when part of the outer or middle ear didn’t form properly before birth.
Sensorineural deafness occurs when there is a fault in the cochlea or auditory nerve which carries sound signals to the brain. Sensorineural deafness is permanent.
Mixed deafness is a combination of sensorineural and conductive deafness. One example of mixed deafness is when someone has glue ear as well as sensorineural deafness.
Glue ear, for most children, resolves by itself and doesn’t need any treatment. For some children with long-term or severe glue ear, hearing aids may be provided; or the child may need surgery to insert grommets. Grommets are tiny plastic tubes which are inserted into the eardrum. They allow air to circulate in the middle ear keeping the pressure on either side of the eardrum equal and therefore helping to prevent fluid from building up.
Check out a really useful booklet on Glue ear on the National Deaf Children's Society website
The audiologist will give a diagnosis of your child’s hearing loss. The audiologist will gradually get a more detailed picture of your child’s hearing loss. Hearing aids, if prescribed, will be programmed especially for your child. These appointments will generally take place at Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
If your child’s hearing loss is profound you may be offered assessment for cochlear implants (CI). The closest cochlear implant team is the Emmeline Centre at Addenbrookes.
If you have concerns regarding your child’s hearing, in the first instance you should go to your GP.
Newborn Hearing Screening
The newborn hearing screening test helps identify babies who have permanent hearing loss as early as possible. This means parents can get the support and advice they need right from the start.
What are aetiological investigations?
There are a range of medical tests that can be carried out to try and find the cause of your child’s deafness. The process to find out why a child is deaf is sometimes called aetiological investigation.
For further information see “Understanding your child’s hearing tests: A guide to the hearing and medical tests that are used to find out the type, level and cause of deafness” published by the National Deaf Children’s Society.