Hearing Problems in Children

Advanced Hearing Care—Improving your Quality of Life. Potomac Audiology: 240-477-1010

Hearing Problems in Children

The signs and symptoms of hearing loss are different for each child. If you think that your child might have hearing loss, ask the child’s doctor for a hearing screening as soon as possible. Don’t wait!

Even if a child has passed a hearing screening before, it is important to look out for the following signs.

Signs in Babies

  • Does not startle at loud noises.
  • Does not turn to the source of a sound after 6 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 sometimes is mistaken for not paying attention or just ignoring, but could be the result of a partial or complete hearing loss.
  • Seems to hear some sounds but not others.

Signs in Children

  • Speech is delayed.
  • Speech is not clear.
  • Does not follow directions. This sometimes is mistaken for not paying attention or just ignoring, but could be the result of a partial or complete hearing loss.
  • Often says, “Huh?”
  • Turns the TV volume up too high.


Screening and Diagnosis

Hearing screening can tell if a child might have hearing loss. Hearing screening is easy and is not painful. In fact, babies are often asleep while being screened. It takes a very short time — usually only a few minutes.


All babies should have a hearing screening no later than 1 month of age. Most babies have their hearing screened while still in the hospital. If a baby does not pass a hearing screening, it’s very important to get a full hearing test as soon as possible, but no later than 3 months of age.


Children should have their hearing tested before they enter school or any time there is a concern about the child’s hearing. Children who do not pass the hearing screening need to get a full hearing test as soon as possible.


Causes and Risk Factors

Hearing loss can happen any time during life – from before birth to adulthood.

Following are some of the things that can increase the chance that a child will have hearing loss:

  • A genetic cause: About 1 out of 2 cases of hearing loss in babies is due to genetic causes. Some babies with a genetic cause for their hearing loss might have family members who also have a hearing loss. About 1 out of 3 babies with genetic hearing loss have a “syndrome.” This means they have other conditions in addition to the hearing loss, such as Down syndrome or Usher syndrome.Learn more about the genetics of hearing loss »
  • 1 out of 4 cases of hearing loss in babies is due to maternal infections during pregnancy, complications after birth, and head trauma. For example, the child:
    • Was exposed to infection, such ascytomegalovirus (CMV) infection, before birth
    • Spent 5 days or more in a hospital neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) or had complications while in the NICU
    • Needed a special procedure like a blood transfusion to treat badjaundice
    • Has head, face or ears shaped or formed in a different way than usual
    • Has a condition like a neurological disorder that may be associated with hearing loss
    • Had an infection around the brain and spinal cord called meningitis
    • Received a bad injury to the head that required a hospital stay
  • For about 1 out of 4 babies born with hearing loss, the cause is unknown.


Treatments and Intervention Services

No single treatment or intervention is the answer for every person or family. Good treatment plans will include close monitoring, follow-ups and any changes needed along the way. There are many different types of communication options for children with hearing loss and for their families. Some of these options include:

  • Learning other ways to communicate, such as sign language
  • Technology to help with communication, such as hearing aids and cochlear implants
  • Medicine and surgery to correct some types of hearing loss
  • Family support services



Early Intervention and Special Education

Early Intervention (0-3 years)

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.

Early intervention program services help young children with hearing loss learn language skills and other important skills. Research shows that early intervention services can greatly improve a child’s development.

Babies that are diagnosed with hearing loss should begin to get intervention services as soon as possible, but no later than 6 months of age.

There are many services available through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act 2004 (IDEA 2004). Services for children from birth through 36 months of age are called Early Intervention or Part C services. Even if your child has not been diagnosed with a hearing loss, he or she may be eligible for early intervention treatment services. The IDEA 2004 says that children under the age of 3 years (36 months) who are at risk of having developmental delays may be eligible for services. These services are provided through an early intervention system in your state. Through this system, you can ask for an evaluation.


Special Education (3-22 years)

Special education is instruction specifically designed to address the educational and related developmental needs of older children with disabilities, or those who are experiencing developmental delays. Services for these children are provided through the public school system. These services are available through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act 2004 (IDEA 2004), Part B.

Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) Program

Every state has an Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) program. EHDI works to identify infants and children with hearing loss. EHDI also promotes timely follow-up testing and services or interventions for any family whose child has a hearing loss. If your child has a hearing loss or if you have any concerns about your child’s hearing, call toll free 1-800-CDC-INFO or contact your local EHDI Program coordinator to find available services in your state.


Many people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing have some hearing. The amount of hearing a deaf or hard-of-hearing person has is called “residual hearing”. Technology does not “cure” hearing loss, but may help a child with hearing loss to make the most of their residual hearing. For those parents who choose to have their child use technology, there are many options, including:

  • Hearing aids
  • Cochlear implants
  • Bone-anchored hearing aids
  • Other assistive devices


Hearing Aids

Hearing aids make sounds louder. They can be worn by people of any age, including infants. Babies with hearing loss may understand sounds better using hearing aids. This may give them the chance to learn speech skills at a young age.

There are many styles of hearing aids. They can help many types of hearing losses. A young child is usually fitted with behind-the-ear style hearing aids because they are better suited to growing ears.


Cochlear Implants

A cochlear implant may help many children with severe to profound hearing loss — even very young children. It gives that child a way to hear when a hearing aid is not enough. Unlike a hearing aid, cochlear implants do not make sounds louder. A cochlear implant sends sound signals directly to the hearing nerve.

A cochlear implant has two main parts — the parts that are placed inside the ear during surgery, and the parts that are worn outside the ear after surgery. The parts outside the ear send sounds to the parts inside the ear.


Bone-Anchored Hearing Aids

This type of hearing aid can be considered when a child has either a conductive, mixed or unilateral hearing loss and is specifically suitable for children who cannot otherwise wear ‘in the ear’ or ‘behind the ear’ hearing aids.


Other Assistive Devices

Besides hearing aids, there are other devices that help people with hearing loss. Following are some examples of other assistive devices:

  • FM System
    An FM system is a kind of device that helps people with hearing loss hear in background noise. FM stands for frequency modulation. It is the same type of signal used for radios. FM systems send sound from a microphone used by someone speaking to a person wearing the receiver. This system is sometimes used with hearing aids. An extra piece is attached to the hearing aid that works with the FM system.
  • Captioning
    Many television programs, videos, and DVDs are captioned. Television sets made after 1993 are made to show the captioning. You don’t have to buy anything special. Captions show the conversation spoken in soundtrack of a program on the bottom of the television screen.
  • Other devices
    There are many other devices available for children with hearing loss. Some of these include:

    • Text messaging
    • Telephone amplifiers
    • Flashing and vibrating alarms
    • Audio loop systems
    • Infrared listening devices
    • Portable sound amplifiers
    • TTY (Text Telephone or teletypewriter)

Medical and Surgical

Medications or surgery may also help make the most of a person’s hearing. This is especially true for a conductive hearing loss, or one that involves a part of the outer or middle ear that is not working in the usual way.

One type of conductive hearing loss can be caused by a chronic ear infection. A chronic ear infection is a build-up of fluid behind the eardrum in the middle ear space. Most ear infections are managed with medication or careful monitoring. Infections that don’t go away with medication can be treated with a simple surgery that involves putting a tiny tube into the eardrum to drain the fluid out.

Another type of conductive hearing loss is caused by either the outer and or middle ear not forming correctly while the baby was growing in the mother’s womb. Both the outer and middle ear need to work together in order for sound to be sent correctly to the inner ear. If any of these parts did not form correctly, there might be a hearing loss in that ear. This problem may be improved and perhaps even corrected with surgery. An ear, nose, and throat doctor (otolaryngologist) is the health care professional who usually takes care of this problem.

Placing a cochlear implant or bone-anchored hearing aid will also require a surgery.


Learning Language

Without extra help, children with hearing loss have problems learning language. These children can then be at risk for other delays. Families who have children with hearing loss often need to change their communication habits or learn special skills (such as sign language) to help their children learn language. These skills can be used together with hearing aids, cochlear implants, and other devices that help children hear.


Family Support Services

For many parents, their child’s hearing loss is unexpected. Parents sometimes need time and support to adapt to the child’s hearing loss.

Parents of children with recently identified hearing loss can seek different kinds of support. Support is anything that helps a family and may include advice, information, having the chance to get to know other parents that have a child with hearing loss, locating a deaf mentor, finding childcare or transportation, giving parents time for personal relaxation or just a supportive listener.



The above information was retrieved from the following websites.  These websites will have additional information for you that will connect you to the local services you need for your child.