Hearing is considered one of the most important body functions which makes us communicate with other people, avoid dangerous situations as well as enjoy in all the pleasant auditory stimuli. People who cannot hear cannot learn to speak and speech development in general may be severely jeopardized due to any hearing impairment. People born deaf are actually suffering from congenital hearing loss. There are many underlying causes of such hearing loss and fetal alcohol syndrome is only one of them.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Fetal alcohol syndrome is a set of growth, mental and physical problems affecting babies of the mothers who consume alcohol while being pregnant.
Alcohol consumption during pregnancy carries all the risks present even when there is no pregnancy. But, apart from the risks to the mother, there is one more risk related to her unborn child- the risk of fetal alcohol syndrome.
Alcohol can easily pass across the placenta and cause many detrimental effects to the developing fetus.
It is essential to mention that there is no 'safe' level of alcohol during pregnancy and even the smallest amounts of alcohol may cause severe damage. Still, the chance of developing fetal alcohol syndrome increases if larger amount of alcohol are consumed on daily bases. Finally, the most detrimental effects are seen if alcohol is consumed during the first trimester.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is one on may characteristics of fetal alcohol syndrome. However, it does not occur in each and every child suffering from this condition.
After obtaining data from a small study scientists confirmed that exposure to alcohol in utero together with maternal malnutrition (inadequate intake of food and all the essential nutrients) was responsible for abnormal fetal development. The survey also revealed that 13 out of 14 children developed some hearing problems. Most of them suffered from otitis media, inflammation of the middle ear. As a result, 4 children ended up with hearing loss. So, hearing loss in such children was basically a consequence of malformation of the ears and susceptibility to repeated respiratory infections.
Furthermore, experiments on rats confirmed connection between alcohol consumption and hearing loss. This is why doctors believe that fetal alcohol syndrome may be associated with delayed maturation of the auditory system, sensory hearing loss and conductive hearing loss due to otitis media.
Still, the very connection between fetal alcohol syndrome and hearing impairment is not considered conclusive. This means that more research needs to be conducted until more relevant data are obtained.