Dr. Youngerman Q & A

Dr. Youngerman Q & A

Back-to-School ENT Health

by AAO-HNS Member Expert Jay Youngerman, M.D.

Q. Should I have my child’s hearing tested before going back to school?

A. Yes. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), hearing loss affects approximately 17 in 1,000 children under age 18. Most children have their hearing evaluated after birth or in the first few years to determine any congenital conditions. However, hearing loss is also caused by things like infections, trauma, and damaging noise levels, and the problem may not emerge until later in childhood.

Hearing tests in older children are usually done at ages 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 15, and 18, and at any other time if there’s a concern. Several methods can be used to test a child's hearing, depending on the child's age, development, or health status.

Signs of hearing difficulty or loss in a child can include: limited, poor, or no speech; frequently inattentive; difficulty learning; often increases the volume on the TV; repeated ear infections; and failing to respond to conversation-level speech, or answering inappropriately to a spoken question.

Q. What happens if my doctor finds a problem with my child’s hearing?

A. If the hearing test reveals a problem, it is important to have the child’s hearing difficulty further evaluated by an otolaryngologist who can rule out medical problems that may be causing the hearing loss, such as otitis media (ear infection), fluid in the ear, excessive earwax, or an inner ear hearing loss. Many treatment options are available and your physician will be able to determine the right therapy.

For a full list of ENTs in your area, see the Academy’s physician locator tool. Go to http://www.entnet.org and click on “Find An ENT.”

Q. Each year, it seems like it gets harder and harder to get my child out of bed for school in the morning. Is it just growing pains or is something physical going on?

A. It could be both! Even though most people associate sleep disorders with adults, children also commonly suffer from sleep-related health problems. Obstructive sleep apnea, also known as sleep-disordered breathing (SDB), is not uncommon in children. However, SDB in children has different causes, consequences, and treatments.

The number one indicator of SDB is restless sleep and labored breathing. This includes loud snoring that occurs every night, regardless of sleep position; snoring is then followed by a complete or partial obstruction of breathing, with gasping and snorting noises. If you are concerned about your child’s sleeping issues, consult with your pediatrician or see a pediatric otolaryngologist for a thorough exam.

Q. My children participate in several different team sports in the fall months. Should I be worried about injuries to their heads or necks?

A. Team sports and general playtime are great exercise for kids. On the down side, they can result in a variety of injuries to the face, including broken noses, facial cuts, and general bumps and bruises.

Many injuries are preventable by wearing the proper protective gear, and as a parent, your attitude toward safety can make a big difference. Check with your child’s coach to make sure they have and are wearing all the necessary protective equipment. Also check with the coach after each practice to see if your child sustained any injuries while playing. See the AAO-HNS patient fact sheet on Facial Sports Injury for more in-depth information.