While hearing loss in children is not common, parents should be aware of the signs of hearing loss in babies, toddlers and school-age children.
If you think your child might have hearing loss, it’s important to visit a doctor and get a hearing test as soon as possible.
Hearing loss can occur in any part of the ear, including the inner ear, outer ear, middle ear, the hearing nerve and the auditory system. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hearing loss can affect a child’s ability to develop their speech, language and social skills. For children with hearing loss, seeking treatment early is the best way to help your child develop in these areas.
Signs of Hearing Loss in Babies
As babies have not yet developed their speech and are still learning how to communicate, it is not always easy to spot hearing loss in an infant. However, here are some of the signs of hearing loss in babies:
- When there’s a loud noise, the baby doesn’t startle or react
- After six months of age, the baby doesn’t turn to the source of a sound. For instance, someone calls to the baby and they don’t turn their body in the direction of the sound
- If the baby is older than one year, they still don’t use single words like “dada” or “mama” to communicate
- The baby seems to hear some sounds, but ignores other sounds
Signs of Hearing Loss in Toddlers and School-Age Children
In some cases, hearing loss can be difficult to recognize in children who have already developed their speech. Parents might think the child is just not listening, rather than realizing that they have hearing loss or can’t hear very well.
Common signs of hearing loss in toddlers and children:
- Speech is delayed or not clear
- Child often asks “huh?” or “what?”
- The child doesn’t follow directions, which may be interpreted by parents as not paying attention
- Child turns the volume up too high on the TV or other devices like a smartphone, laptop, iPad, or when using headphones
There are other signs that might indicate hearing loss in a child. The child’s grades might start to fall, because they can’t hear in class or have trouble listening to the instructions when the teacher is talking. A child who starts talking louder than normal could have hearing loss. If your child is displaying any of these signs, don’t assume that they just aren’t listening. Any of these behaviors could be a sign of hearing loss.
Types of Hearing Loss in Children
If you think your child needs a hearing test, consult your child’s doctor or pediatrician. A hearing screening can determine whether or not your child is experiencing hearing loss. The hearing screening does not take long and is not painful. Babies are often asleep during a hearing screening.
There are two main types of pediatric hearing loss: congenital (present at birth) and acquired (occurs after birth). Congenital hearing loss could be the result of an infection during pregnancy, complications at birth, a disorder of the brain or nervous system, a genetic syndrome, or a family history of hearing loss. Acquired pediatric hearing loss could be caused by untreated middle-ear infections, other types of infections (such as meningitis, mumps, measles or whooping cough), a perforation of the eardrum, a head injury, excessive noise (like fireworks or loud music), or other diseases.
Is Hearing Loss in Children Treatable?
In younger children, hearing loss could be temporary, such as hearing loss caused by a middle-ear infection. Children with temporary hearing loss could have their hearing restored through different types of treatment methods, including minor surgical procedures.
For children with hearing loss, early intervention is key helping them develop language and other important skills. According to the CDC, research has shown that early intervention services for children with hearing loss can significantly improve a child’s development.
Services for children with hearing loss include:
- Special education
- Hearing aids
- Cochlear implants, which help children with severe to profound hearing loss
- Surgical treatments
Expert Healthcare for Children in Denver
Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children (RMHC) is a leader in pediatric care for children of all ages. Our expert and board-certified pediatricians are committed to providing the best treatment and care possible for each and every child. Talk to your child’s doctor about hearing loss and hearing screenings.