Ear Injuries in Children
Falls, blows to the head, sports injuries, as well as listening to loud music can cause ear damage, which can affect hearing and balance. That’s because the ear not just helps us hear, however also keeps us steady on our feet.
Kids need to hear well to develop and use their speech, social, and listening skills. Even mild or partial hearing loss can impact their capability to speak and comprehend language, while problems with balance can influence how they have the ability to move and how well they feel.
How the Ear Works
To understand ear injuries, it’s helpful to examine the ins and outs of the ears. Generally, the ear is comprised of three parts– the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear.
Hearing starts when acoustic waves that travel through the air reach the external ear, or pinna (the noticeable part of the ear). The external ear records the sound vibration and sends it through the ear canal to the middle ear, which consists of the eardrum (a thin layer of tissue) and 3 tiny bones (called ossicles). The sound causes the eardrum to vibrate. The ossicles magnify these vibrations and bring them to the inner ear.
The inner ear is comprised of a snail-shaped chamber (the cochlea), which is filled with fluid and lined with four rows of tiny hair cells. When the vibrations move through this fluid, the outer hair cells contract back and forth and magnify the sound.
When the vibrations huge enough, the inner hair cells translate them into electrical nerve impulses in the vestibulocochlear nerve (also called the acoustic nerve, acoustic nerve, or 8th cranial nerve), which sends signals to the brain to be analyzed as noise. The vestibulocochlear nerve also helps with balance.
Types of Ear Injuries
Hearing loss and balance issues can take place when there’s damage to essential parts of the ear, like the eardrum, ear canal, ossicles, cochlea, or the vestibular nerve.
Here’s a take a look at the most common causes of ear injuries and how they can affect kids:
Cuts, scrapes, burns, or frostbite. When there’s an injury (even small) to the outer ear or ear canal, bleeding and infection can affect other parts of the ear.
Placing something into the ear. Things like a cotton bud, fingernail, or pencil can scratch the ear canal or cause a tear or hole in the eardrum (called a ruptured eardrum).
Direct blows to the ear or head. Falls, car mishaps, sports injuries, or battles may tear the eardrum, dislocate the ossicles, or harm the inner ear. Wrestlers, fighters, and other professional athletes who sustain duplicated strong hits to the external ear can establish severe bruising or blood clots that block blood flow to the cartilage of the external ear and damage its shape and structure (known as cauliflower ear).
Loud noise. Kids can have considerable or permanent hearing loss when they’re exposed to actually loud noises day-to-day or over an extended period of time. This is called acoustic injury or noise-induced hearing loss.
When this occurs, the tiny hairs in the cochlea ended up being harmed. Loud sounds (like a gunshot, firecracker, or surge) can cause it, as can sounds that are duplicated over time (like lawn mowers, power tools, farm equipment, sound from sporting occasions, band or shop classes, motorcycles, even theater). However for kids and teens, paying attention to loud music (at concerts, in the car, through earphones) is one of the chief causes of this kind of avoidable hearing loss.
Unexpected, substantial change in air pressure. When we fly or scuba dive, air pressure reduces as we go higher and increases as we go lower. If the pressure isn’t really matched, the greater air pressure presses on one side of the eardrum and causes pain and sometimes partial hearing loss, called barotrauma.
Typically, the eustachian tube (a passage that leads from the middle ear to the back of the throat behind the nose) equalizes the atmospheric pressure in the center ear to the outside atmospheric pressure by opening and letting air reach the middle ear. When your ears “pop” while yawning or swallowing, your eustachian tubes are changing the atmospheric pressure in your middle ears.
But in kids, the fairly narrow eustachian tubes may not work as well, particularly if they’re clogged by swelling and mucus from an ear infection or cold, or obstructed by bigger or swollen adenoids. Any pain or hearing issues are typically minor and temporary, however– they typically disappear within minutes and do not cause any lasting damage. In many cases, a child can have pain for numerous hours if the ears do not “pop.” Occasionally, severe pressure modifications can fill the middle ear with fluid or blood or cause the eardrum to burst.
Signs of Hearing Loss or Balance Issues
Ear injuries can affect kids in a different way. Some may have partial hearing loss, with symptoms like:
- problem hearing when there’s background sound
- difficulty hearing high-pitched noises or music notes
- hearing just particular or stifled noises
- calling in the ears or other weird seem like hissing, buzzing, humming, or roaring
- showing up the TELEVISION
- trouble paying attention or keeping up in school
- complaining that the ears feel “full”
- trouble talking (with poor, minimal, or no speech)
- talking loudly
- cannot turn toward loud sounds or respond to conversation-level speech
- answering wrongly
In other cases, kids may have complete hearing loss or deafness (when they can’t hear anything at all).
Depending on whether they hurt one or both ears, kids with ear injuries that affect balance might have symptoms like:
- falling or stumbling a lot (clumsiness)
- vertigo (an abrupt sensation of spinning or whirling that feels like moving while sitting or standing)
- feeling unstable, “woozy,” or disoriented
- lightheadedness or lightheadedness
- vision issues (like bouncing eyesight or blurriness, called oscillopsia)
- difficulty increasing stairs or standing up without falling
- issues walking (failure to walk without shocking, walking with legs too far apart, or difficulty walking in the
- dark or over irregular areas)
- queasiness or vomiting
- major tiredness
Preventing Ear Injuries
You cannot safeguard children from getting hurt all the time– accidents and injuries are foregone conclusion with raising kids. However you can keep prevent some ear injuries by encouraging kids to:
- Never ever stick anything in their ears– not even cotton swabs or their fingers. Regular bathing should suffice to keep earwax at typical levels. If your child suffers ear pain and you see earwax in the ear, it’s OK to wipe the beyond the ear with a washcloth. If earwax disrupts hearing or causes pain or pain, speak with your doctor about having actually the earwax removed in the office.
- Stay away from uneasy, possibly destructive noise. If you or your kids need to scream to be spoken with 3 feet away, that’s far too loud.
- Reject the volume when paying attention to music, particularly while wearing earphones or riding in the car.
- Likewise look for portable media or music gamers with “volume limiters” (they may include the device or it can be purchased individually).
- Wear ear security at shows, particularly when sitting near the stage or speakers (they’ll still be able to hear with earplugs– it just won’t be as deafening), trimming the yard or utilizing equipment (like in metal or wood store at school), or playing a loud instrument (like the drums).
- Always placed on a snug-fitting helmet whenever they ride bikes or scooters, skateboard, or inline skate.
- Don the right type of protective devices each time they practice or play sports– helmets for baseball, softball, hockey, and football; headgear or ear guards for wrestling, rugby, and boxing.
How long hearing or balance problems last and how they’re dealt with will depend on what part of the ear was injured, what caused the injury, and how severe it is. While small injuries generally cause temporary problems, serious injuries may cause irreversible hearing loss or balance problems.
Vestibular therapy might help kids with balance issues. And some with significant hearing loss may need a hearing aid, an FM system or auditory fitness instructor (specialized devices that shut out background sound), or a cochlear implant (a surgically implanted device that helps get rid of problems in the inner ear, or cochlea). They likewise might require listening therapy with an audiologist (hearing professional).
Make certain to call your doctor if your child has:
- had any kind of ear or head injury, even if it appears minor
- any signs of problems with balance or hearing
- severe ear pain
- blood or fluid draining pipes from the ear (that does not look like earwax)
If there’s a concern, your doctor can refer you to an ear, nose, and throat specialist and potentially an audiologist to figure out the next step to take.