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Hearing Loss In Children


What is hearing loss?

Hearing loss means your child has trouble hearing or he cannot hear at all in one or both ears. Hearing loss can happen suddenly or slowly over time.

What are the types of hearing loss?

  • Conductive hearing loss: This is a problem with the outer or middle ear which makes it hard for sound waves to reach the inner ear. Sometimes this hearing loss can be treated by correcting the cause of the problem. Examples include removal of earwax or an object, medicine for an ear infection, or surgery.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss: There may be damage to parts of the inner ear. There is usually no cure for sensorineural hearing loss. Most people with this type of hearing loss must use hearing aids or other devices to hear better.
  • Mixed hearing loss: Mixed hearing loss includes both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.

What causes hearing loss?

  • Ear and head injury or blockage caused by an object, earwax, or swelling
  • Medical problems such as ear infections, tumors, or otosclerosis (abnormal growth of bones in the ear)
  • Increased fluid in the inner ear
  • Medicines that damage the ears
  • Premature birth or low birth weight
  • Infections in the mother during pregnancy such as herpes or rubella

What are the signs and symptoms of hearing loss in children?

  • Your baby may not notice sounds around him, like a rattle shaking or a loud noise.
  • Your child's speech does not sound normal for his age. Your child is old enough to talk, but he is not saying words yet.
  • Your child may sit close to the TV with the volume up very high.
  • Your child may watch the faces and lips of others closely when they speak.
  • Your child may often ask you or others to repeat what was said.
  • Your child may not answer someone when the person is not in clear view.

How is hearing loss diagnosed?

Your child's caregiver will ask you about his hearing loss. Your child's caregiver will also examine his ears using an instrument that has a light and magnifying glass.

  • Behavioral observation audiometry: This is a test used for infants (younger than 1 year) to see their behavior when they hear certain sounds.
  • Visual reinforcement audiometry: This test is used for younger children. Lights or toys appear every time the child responds.
  • Play audiometry: This test uses a machine to send sounds at different volumes and pitches into your child's ears. Your child wears earphones and is asked to touch or move a toy every time a sound is heard.
  • Tympanometry: This test is used to check for pressure changes in the ear.

How is hearing loss treated?

  • Correct the cause of hearing loss: For example, if your child's ear is plugged with earwax or an object, his caregiver will remove it. Caregivers may change or stop certain medicines if they think the medicines are causing his hearing loss.
  • Hearing aids: A hearing aid is a small device that fits inside your child's ear and helps him hear better. Work with your child's caregiver to decide which hearing aid is best for him.
  • Assistive listening devices: These devices are like small radios that pick up sound and send it through earphones or a headset. Assistive listening devices (ALDs) may help him hear better when he watches TV or sits in a classroom. ALDs for phones and doorbells may use flashing lights or vibrators to let him know they are ringing. ALDs can be used with hearing aids.
  • Antibiotics: This medicine may be given if your child has an ear infection caused by bacteria. Your child should always take his antibiotics exactly as ordered by his caregiver.
  • Therapy: Your child may need to work with a specialist who can help him with speech and hearing.
  • Cochlear implant: This is a tiny device that is put into your child's cochlea (a part of his inner ear) during surgery. This device is only used for sensorineural hearing loss.
  • Surgery: Your child may need surgery if his hearing loss is caused by otosclerosis or other problems. Children who need ear tubes to help prevent ear infections may also need surgery.

What are the risks of hearing loss?

Without treatment, hearing loss can affect how your child learns or speaks. Hearing loss can be dangerous if your child cannot hear alarms or sirens.

How can I help my child manage his hearing loss?

  • Keep your child away from loud noises: This can help prevent more hearing loss. Loud noise includes fireworks, loud music, motorcycles, and power tools.
  • Face your child when you speak to him: Do not cover your mouth as you speak. When you are in a group setting, have your child sit in a location where he can clearly see the faces of the people who are talking. Ask people not to speak loudly or shout when they speak to your child if they do this. People should speak using their usual tone and volume.
  • Learn about other listening devices: If you have a school-age child, ask caregivers about listening aids that will work in a classroom. These listening aids will make it easier for your child to hear a teacher and other classmates.
  • Keep all appointments with your child's caregivers: Your child's hearing loss may change as he grows, so he will need regular appointments to check for changes.

Where can I go for support and more information?

  • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
    2200 Research Boulevard
    Rockville , MD 20850-3289
    Phone: 1- 800 - 638-8255
    Web Address:
  • Better Hearing Institute
    1444 I Street NW, Suite 700
    Washington , DC 20005
    Phone: 1- 202 - 449-1100
    Web Address:

When should I contact my child's caregiver?

Contact your child's caregiver if:

  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child has ear pain that is getting worse.
  • Your child has ringing in his ears or dizziness that will not go away.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your child has fluid, pus, or blood leaking from his ear.
  • Your child has sudden, severe hearing loss.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.