Hearing is essential for young children to learn speech, for their overall learning skills, playing, and developing social skills. In most developed countries, screening for hearing ability is done immediately some time after birth. Otherwise, parents are usually the first to notice hearing defects in young children. Hearing loss is of three types- conductive due to middle ear pathology; sensorineural due to dysfunction of the auditory nerve, outer sensory hair in the cochlea (inner ear) or auditory brain centre; and mixed type involving both conductive and sensorineural pathology.
Hearing loss in children can be present at birth itself and may result from congenital infections, toxic medications taken during pregnancy, birth complications, nervous system disorders, genetic diseases, or due to a strong family history. Acquired hearing deficiency after birth may be due to untreated middle ear infection, other infections, ototoxic medicines, exposure to sudden and excessive noise, and trauma. Treatment of hearing loss due to middle ear infections is usually with medicines, and in severe cases, with a grommet insertion. Mild to moderate sensorineural hearing loss is treated using a hearing aid, which can be fitted in children as young as 3 months of age. There is currently no medication for this in the modern system of medicine. Profound sensorineural hearing loss is treated with surgical cochlear implant.
Ayurvedic treatment can be very effectively utilised in successfully treating this condition For hearing loss due to middle ear infections, medicines are given which reduce allergy, inflammation, infection, and fluid buildup. After reduction in symptoms, further treatment is given to prevent frequency of re-occurrence. Unlike adults, children usually do not have permanent damage to middle ear structures such as ossification (stiffening) of the bones which connect the ear drum to the inner ear; results with treatment are therefore quite good and hearing is restored to normal in the majority of affected children.
For the sensorineural type, Ayurvedic treatment is given to provide nutrition, repair damage to the inner ear, and strengthen the auditory nerve and auditory brain centre. This treatment is quite safe for long term administration in children more than 6 months of age. Currently, modern medical science believes that outer sensory hair dysfunction in the cochlea is one of the most common causes for sensorineural hearing loss, and the hair – once damaged – cannot be repaired or regenerated. The exact mode of action of Ayurvedic medicines is currently not known; however, there is usually a hearing benefit of 15-25 percent with 4-6 months of regular treatment, which can be objectively confirmed with audio-metric tests. About 40-60 percent hearing benefit can be obtained with about 10-12 months of Ayurvedic treatment.
It is important to note that treated individuals – both adults and children – are exposed to the same environmental, occupational, and lifestyle aggravating factors for hearing loss, which normal people face. These include infections, toxic medications, toxicity due to pollution, stress, trauma, and exposure to sudden or prolonged, excessive sounds, and music. All individuals therefore need to take care to avoid or minimise the risk from such aggravating or risk factors to the maximum extent possible.