A number of older people hear the constant noises caused by tinnitus (ringing in the ears), but few people realize it affects kids too. Children are equally at risk for this potentially debilitating disorder. While adults can usually determine that the sounds they are hearing are abnormal, many kids assume the noise is a regular part of life. If your child shows signs of tinnitus it is important to look into it to rule out any underlying condition.
Tinnitus is caused by a number of different conditions in both adults and children. Among the many potential causes are circulatory problems, hearing loss from damaging noise, a build-up of wax in the ear canal, a misalignment in the jaw joints, and trauma to the neck and head. Slow-growing tumors on nerves in the face and ears can also cause tinnitus. Your family pediatrician can help rule out any specific ear problems. If there are not any obvious issues, you will likely be referred to an ear, nose, and throat specialist or audiologist for further investigation.
If the examination uncovers a specific reason for your child’s tinnitus, the issue can usually be alleviated by addressing the underlying problem. However, many children and adults experience tinnitus without a clear cause. In this case, there is no way to eradicate the problem, so your focus should shift to helping your child cope with the sounds he or she is hearing.
Tinnitus can be distracting, making it difficult for your child to pay attention at home or at school. One way to combat this is to provide background noise. Consider playing soft music or running a fan when your child needs to concentrate. Hearing aids can be helpful for children with hearing loss by helping them filter out distractions and focus on important sounds.
Tinnitus can cause some kids to experience psychological distress. In this case it is important to be supportive and reassuring about the condition. Make sure your child understands that tinnitus is a common problem that affects many other children. Work with your doctors and experts to explain the problem to your child in a way he or she can understand. Take steps to help your child deal with stressful situations, as many children find that stress can make their tinnitus symptoms much worse.
Always keep in mind that many children outgrow their tinnitus without intervention, so it may cease to be an issue. While it may be a nuisance now, with time your child can overcome it.