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Does Hardening of Ear Drum Cause Hearing Loss?

By January 19, 2009

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Denise posted on the forum that she is worried about her three year old son because his ear drum is hardening (and apparently they can't do anything about it?). Plus, the child is not talking much, a possible sign that he may already have hearing loss:

My sons pediatrician said that his ear drum is hardening. His one year old sister talks more then him and I am worried. Does hardening of the ear drum always lead to deafness? He wakes up in the middle of the night just non stop crying. This breaks my heart and I don't know what to do.

Does anyone have any experience with the ear drum hardening? I have never heard of this before. I have heard of damaged ear drums and perforated ear drums, but not hardening ear drums. Post your response to this clearly worried mother.

January 21, 2009 at 12:02 am
(1) Kathleen Branton says:

I remembered that my friend who was deaf by damaging the eardrums–cause by washing into the ears with rag and hairpin by her mother. “Push into ears so hard and got hurt terrible”.

January 28, 2009 at 1:36 am
(2) se says:

Hardening of the ear drum is not a term used by audiologists or Ear Nose and Throat surgeons – I think your paed may be referring to scarring of the eardrum, which you can see when you look in with an otoscope – it appears as white patches on the otherwise opaque drum. Or he may be getting the info from a Tympanogram, if your son has had one of these (it’s a test which shows the ear drum’s mobility and involves putting a little rubber tip into the ear). Scarring can occur from perforations, which may be caused either by trauma (a hit to the head, or loud blast near the ear, or object perforating the drum -like a cotton bud or hairpin) or by ear infection bursting through the drum (extremely painful when it happens, but great relief is felt afterwards). The ear drum is a bit like 3 layers of skin – like skin, it will normally heal itself after a perforation by growing back. Some perf’s don’t heal by themselves however, and this is when you need a tympanoplasty to patch up the hole.
Scarring by itself does not normally cause a hearing loss. Many children have very stiff ear drums from scarring (eg those who have had many sets of grommets), but have perfectly normal hearing. I would be more concerned that your child might be having acute ear pain caused by infection, or that he has Eustachian tube dysfunction or fluid behind the drums (which does not have to be infected, and can sometimes be difficult to see by simply looking in the ear with an otoscope). In view of your paed’s comments, plus your observations that he does not talk like his younger sister, and wakes up crying in the night (which to me could suggest ear pain), that it is definitely worth having an audiology assessment that includes both a tympanogram and an audiogram. Ear problems (like fluid, infection etc) that are left untreated or go undetected can cause permanent hearing loss via erosion of the middle ear bones.
Having a test will set your mind to rest and if there is a problem your doctor will be better able to advise on what you can do to help. If you are concerned about his speech and language development, it might be worth having an assessment with a Speech Language Pathologist, or at least looking up the normal speech/language for your son’s age and seeing how he compares. I only say this because the earlier a language delay is addressed, the easier and better it is!
Hope this helps.

January 29, 2009 at 1:00 pm
(3) mde says:

I agree with se. You should get a complete audiologic assessment from a licensed audiologist as soon as possible, as well as a check up with an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist to address the acute ear pain. Regarding speech and language development, I would suggest you contact your local school district and inquire about getting a speech and language evaluation completed as soon as possible. This evaluation is free through your local education agency, and they are obligated to provide services to your child if he qualifies for them. Good luck.

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