Hearing Loss

What is hearing loss in children?

Hearing loss can vary greatly among children and can be caused by many things. In the United States, 1 to 3 children per 1,000 are born with hearing loss each year. Most children also experience mild, temporary hearing loss when fluid gets in the middle ear from allergies or colds. Sometimes as a result of an ear infection, fluid stays in the middle ears, which can sometimes cause hearing loss and delays in your child’s speech. Some children have permanent hearing loss. This can be from mild (they don’t hear as well as you do) to complete (where they can’t hear anything at all).

What are some of the signs of hearing loss?

The signs and symptoms of hearing loss are different for different children. If you see any of these signs call your child’s doctor or nurse:

  • does not turn to the source of a sound from birth to 3 or 4 months of age
  • does not say single words, such as “dada” or “mama” by 1 year of age
  • turns head when he or she sees you but not if you only call out his or her name: this usually is mistaken for not paying attention or just ignoring, but could be the result of a partial or complete hearing loss
  • hears some sounds but not others

What causes hearing loss? Can it be prevented?

Hearing loss can happen any time during life – from before birth to adulthood. Babies who are born early, who have low birth weight, or who are exposed to infections in the womb might have hearing loss, but this can happen to full-term, normal weight babies as well. Genetic factors are the cause of hearing loss in about 50% of babies – some of these babies might have family members who are deaf. Illnesses, injuries, certain medicines, and loud noise levels can cause children and adults to lose hearing.

Some causes of hearing loss can be prevented. For example, vaccines can prevent certain infections, such as measles or meningitis (an infection of the fluid around the brain and spinal cord), which can cause hearing loss. Another cause that can be prevented is a kind of brain damage called kernicterus, which is caused by bad jaundice. This can be prevented by using special lights (phototherapy) or other therapies to treat babies with jaundice before they go home from the hospital.


What can I do if I think my child might have hearing loss?

Talk with your child’s doctor or nurse. If you, your doctor, or anyone else who knows your child well, think your child might have hearing loss, ask that a hearing test be given as soon as possible. To have your child’s exact levels of hearing measured, see an audiologist or an ear, nose, and throat doctor (ENT, otolaryngologist) who works with infants and children. If your child is under age 2 or does not cooperate for the hearing exam, a test (called brain-stem evoked-response audiometry) could be given. This test allows the doctor to check your child’s hearing without having to rely on your child’s cooperation. Your child will not be hurt; most babies even sleep through the test. This test is done routinely with newborn babies in all states.

Hearing loss can affect a child’s ability to develop speech, language, and social skills. The earlier a child who is deaf or hard-of-hearing starts getting services, the more likely the child’s speech, language, and social skills will reach their full potential. Services can be received through your local early intervention agency or public school.

From CDC