Pediatric Hearing Loss

Approximately 1 in 1000 newborns are diagnosed with extensive hearing loss, and another two to three in 1000 are born with partial hearing loss.  Early diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss in children can be critical to the child’s development of speech, language, cognitive, and psychosocial abilities.

Treatment is most successful if hearing loss is identified and addressed early, preferably within the first month of life.

Signs of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can occur later in childhood, even after a post-natal screening.  To continue monitoring your child’s hearing, refer to the following checklist:

My newborn (birth to 6 months)

  • Does not startle, move, cry or react in any way to unexpected loud noises.
  • Does not awaken to loud noises.
  • Does not freely imitate sound.
  • Cannot be soothed by voice alone.
  • Does not turn his/her head in the direction of my voice.

My infant (6 months to 12 months)

  • Does not point to familiar persons or objects when asked.
  • Does not babble or babbling has stopped.
  • By 12 months is not understanding simple phrases as “wave bye-bye,” or “clap hands,” by listening alone.

My toddler (13 months to 2 years)

  • Does not accurately turn in the direction of a soft voice on the first call.
  • Is not alert to environment sounds.
  • Does not respond to sounds or locate where sound is coming from.
  • Does not begin to imitate and use simple words for familiar people and things around the home.
  • Does not sound like or use speech like other children of similar age.
  • Does not listen to TV at a normal volume.
  • Does not show consistent growth in the understanding and the use of words to communicate.

If your child has one or more of these indicators, you should take him or her to a physician, preferably an otolaryngologist, for an ear examination and a hearing test.  This can be done at any age, as early as just after birth.

If Your Child Has Hearing Loss

It’s certainly not the end of the world.  Hearing loss can be temporary or permanent.  It is important to have hearing loss evaluated by a physician who can rule out medical problems that may be causing the hearing loss such as an ear infection, earwax buildup, congenital malformation, or genetic hearing loss.

If your child’s hearing loss is permanent, hearing aids may be recommended to amplify the sound reaching your child’s ear.  Ear surgery may restore or significantly improve hearing in some instances.  For those with certain types of profound hearing loss who do not benefit sufficiently from hearing aids, a cochlear implant may be considered.  Unlike a hearing aid, a cochlear implant bypasses damaged parts of the auditory system and directly stimulates the hearing nerve and allows the child to hear louder and clearer sound.

You will need to decide whether or not your deaf child will communicate primarily with oral speech and/or sign language, and seek early intervention to prevent language delays.  Research indicates that habilitation of hearing loss by age six months will prevent subsequent language delays.  Other communication strategies such as auditory verbal therapy, lip reading, and cued speech may also be used with a hearing aid or cochlear implant, or independently.