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Diagnosing Hearing Loss in Children

Many hospitals test newborns for hearing problems. Other hospitals only test infants who are at risk for hearing problems, such as those with deafness in the family. Some states have laws that require hearing tests for all infants. Check with your pediatrician or hospital to find out if your child has had a hearing test. If not, see how you can get one.

Treatments for Children With Hearing Loss

Treatments for children with hearing loss depend upon the cause and amount of hearing loss.

The most common treatments for otitis media include:

Watchful waiting. Because the condition often clears on its own, sometimes the first treatment for otitis media is simply to watch the child for any changes.

Medications. Your pediatrician may prescribe antibiotics or other medications for your child.

Ear tubes. If the problem continues and seems to be affecting your child's hearing, your pediatrician may suggest that your child get ear tubes. These allow fluid to drain and can help prevent infection. If your pediatrician thinks your child needs ear tubes, he or she will refer you to an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor, also known as an otolaryngologist. Inserting ear tubes is a minor outpatient surgical procedure, but your child will have to have a general anesthetic in the hospital.

Other treatments for children with hearing loss include:

Hearing aids. Children with hearing loss can begin to use hearing aids when they are as young as 1 month old. A hearing specialist will help make sure that your child gets the correct hearing aid for him or her.

Implants. Many children and adults get cochlear implants, electronic devices that help with hearing. These are usually used for children with serious hearing problems, when hearing aids have not helped.

Other hearing devices. There are many other devices that can help children with hearing loss. Ask a hearing specialist about what might be right for your child.

Support for Parents of Children With Hearing Loss

Under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), children with hearing loss are entitled to help and education from the time they are born and throughout their school years. Early help can teach your child to communicate through speech or signing, or a combination of both.

If your child needs ongoing help in school, work with your school administrators to make sure he or she gets it. As your child grows, it's likely that his or her education program will need readjusting. So you will need to stay involved to ensure your child gets the help he or she needs.

Early treatment and support from you increase the chances that children with hearing loss will learn to communicate and to participate in school and other activities. This is especially true in children who use cochlear implants. Children with cochlear implants who have supportive parents show better performance than children with less supportive parents. The same is true for children who use hearing aids.  

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