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Understanding Hearing Loss in Children

Each day is filled with sounds, from the time we wake up to when we go to sleep. Children use these sounds to learn about the world around them and interact with others. Hearing problems can be frustrating for children, interfering with daily activities like talking, understanding others, doing schoolwork, playing and learning. Identifying hearing problems early is often the key to effective treatment and improvement.

Causes of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss in children can have many causes and be temporary or permanent. A child may be born with hearing loss, or it may happen later in life as the result of: 

  • Medications
  • Injury
  • Life saving medical treatment, like chemotherapy or certain medications
  • Middle ear fluid, wax or an ear infection (hearing loss may be temporary)
  • Exposure to very loud sound

Our audiologists at Brenner Children's Hospital work closely with you and your child to learn about the specific type of hearing loss so that we can best meet your child's listening needs. Learn more about why your child may have difficulty hearing. 

Types of Hearing Loss

The three primary types of hearing loss are:

Conductive

Ear wax, ear fluid, ear infections, cholesteatoma (a cyst in the ear), a permanent hole in the eardrum, or problems with the hearing bones interfere with the conduction system that takes sound from the environment and transmits it to the hearing organ (the inner ear). We work with ENT/head and neck surgeons at Brenner Children's Hospital to determine the best care options.

Sensorineural

The hearing organ (inner ear or cochlea) or nerve is damaged, injured or deteriorating. This causes the loudness, and possible the clarity, of sounds to drop. Hearing aids or cochlear implants are usually used to treat this disorder.

Mixed

With mixed hearing loss, there are problems with both parts of the hearing organ. Baseline sensorineural hearing loss can be made worse by fluid in the ears. We work with ENT/head and neck surgeons to determine treatment. 

Hearing Milestones for Children

Hearing milestones that your child should reach in the first year of life:

  • Pass the newborn hearing screening
  • Be startled or jumpy around loud sounds
  • Smile when hears your voice
  • Eyes follow direction of sounds or your voice
  • Interested in music and toys that make noise
  • Like simple games like peek-a-boo

Other signs your toddler or child may have a hearing problem are:

  • Frequently asks for the TV to be turned up
  • Difficulty learning or listening
  • Speech problems

Visit the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association's website to learn more about hearing and talking milestones for infants and children. 

If you think your child may have a hearing problem, our audiologists can help. Learn about tests we have available to diagnose hearing difficulties and our hearing aid services.