Two to 3 children out of 1,000 in the U.S. are born deaf or with some loss of hearing, according to the National Institutes of Health. Most states test the hearing of newborns, and if there is a hearing problem, another test is done within a few weeks. Early treatment is important.
Any kind of early hearing loss can be a serious problem. It can affect language development, which experts believe is built during the early months and years of life. If diagnosed and treated quickly, hearing problems in babies and children can be stopped before they lead to any language problems.
But it can be hard to spot hearing loss. Many hearing problems aren't found until a child is 2, when speech and developmental delays start to show.
If you think that your child may have a hearing problem, talk to your child's doctor. Get your child's hearing tested as soon as possible. If your child has been diagnosed with a hearing problem, get help right away. The earlier children with hearing loss get help, the better.
What Are the Causes of Hearing Loss in Children?
The causes of hearing loss in children include:
Otitis media. This middle ear infection happens often in young children because their Eustachian tubes (the tubes that connect the middle ear to the nose) are not fully developed. Fluid builds up behind the eardrum and can become infected. Even if there is no pain or infection, the fluid can affect hearing if it stays there, at least temporarily. In severe and long-lasting cases, otitis media can lead to permanent hearing loss.
Problems at birth. Some children are born with hearing problems. More than half of hearing problems in children born with them are due to genetics. Others happen during the pregnancy or from prenatal care. Hearing loss can also happen when a pregnant woman develops certain conditions such as diabetes or toxemia. Being premature also raises a child's chance for hearing problems.
Illness or injury. Many conditions can cause hearing problems in young children, including illnesses such as meningitis, encephalitis, measles, chickenpox, and the flu. Head injuries, very loud noises, and certain medications can also cause hearing loss.
Symptoms of Hearing Loss in Children
As a parent, you are likely to be the first person to notice hearing problems in your child. Some early signs of a hearing problem include:
- Not reacting to loud noises
- Not responding to your voice
- Making simple sounds that taper off
A child with otitis media may also:
- Pull or rub an ear
- Be constantly cranky for no obvious reason
- Stop paying attention and have little energy
- Not understand directions
- Often ask for the TV or radio to be louder
- Have a fever
- Have ear pain
Check with your child's doctor if you think that your child has hearing problems.