Preventing Congenital Hearing Loss
Each year in the U.S., thousands of babies are born with some degree of hearing loss. While not all types of hearing loss are preventable, protecting your baby’s hearing can begin before he is even born. You can’t change your baby’s genes, for example, but hearing loss can also be caused by factors other than genetics. Hearing loss can be caused by toxins like drugs taken during pregnancy and complications experienced during pregnancy. It can also be caused by infections. Talk to your doctor about having a toxin-free pregnancy.
When your baby is born, he will undergo routine hearing screenings. It’s also important to have your child’s hearing checked regularly as he grows. In the event that your baby has already been diagnosed with permanent hearing loss, consider alternative methods of communication. Take a sign language course, for example. You could also explore the use of Speech Buddies to facilitate communication as your child grows.
Congenital Hearing Loss
Congenital hearing loss refers to hearing loss that was present at birth, whether due to genetics or other factors. About 25% of newborns with congenital hearing loss have it due to factors other than genetics.
Gestational diabetes can sometimes be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight. While pregnant, gain weight at the rate recommended by your doctor. Talk to your doctor about exercising safely while pregnant to keep your blood sugar levels stable. If you have previously had gestational diabetes, you are at a higher risk for having it again. Talk to your doctor about avoiding medications that can increase that risk, such as prednisone, dexamethasone, and any other drugs that can increase insulin resistance, like nicotinic acid.
Low Birth Weight
Taking steps to prevent a low birth weight is also a good way to prevent congenital hearing loss. Prenatal care is an important factor in birth weight. Talk to your doctor about healthy meal plans to ensure that you receive adequate nutrition. Your doctor might also recommend a prenatal vitamin. As well, avoiding cigarettes and alcohol during pregnancy is crucial. Your doctor can advise you about programs that can help you quit.
Toxemia is also called preeclampsia. If you have gestational hypertension, you are at an increased risk for developing toxemia. It refers to an abrupt increase in blood pressure, along with excess protein in the urine. If left untreated, toxemia can be life-threatening. Toxemia also increases the risk of hearing loss in the infant. While you can’t control some risk factors for toxemia (i.e. being a first-time mom and having a family history of it), you can reduce your risk by maintaining a healthy weight and a stable blood pressure. Regular exercise can also reduce your risk of toxemia.
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is one of the most commonly transmitted intrauterine infections. This virus is in the herpes family. Often, people have a CMV infection, but remain undiagnosed because there are no symptoms. Not all babies infected with CMV will display symptoms at birth, but some can become quite ill. CMV also increases the risk of congenital hearing loss. Talk to your doctor about getting tested for a CMV infection. Your doctor can also advise you about lowering your risk of becoming infected while pregnant. Preventative measures can include washing your hands thoroughly and frequently, avoiding kissing young children on the face, avoiding sharing eating or drinking utensils, and practicing safe sex.
Other infections can also result in hearing loss, such as the German measles and the herpes simplex virus. Talk to your doctor about vaccines prior to becoming pregnant and staying safe during your pregnancy.