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Hearing Loss in Children: Signs, Symptoms and What You Can Do

By Raina Cordell, RN
Medically Reviewed by Lilach Saperstein, AuD on January 13, 2021
Learn about the signs and symptoms of hearing loss in children and how it’s diagnosed.

Children can experience hearing loss at any point—from birth through later childhood. While there can be a genetic component, most children with hearing loss are born to families that have no history of hearing problems. Let’s look at the signs and symptoms of hearing loss in children and how it’s diagnosed. 

Signs of Hearing Loss in Children

The signs and symptoms of hearing loss can be different for each child. Even if your child has passed previous hearing tests, they could develop problems hearing later on. 

“Infants and toddlers with hearing loss may not react normally to sounds or startle with noise,” Shannon Basham, AuD, senior director of audiology and education at Phonak, tells Web MD Connect to Care. “As these children grow, they may have difficulty following directions, fall behind with speech and have communication difficulties, and show signs of behavioral problems.” 

Other signs of hearing loss in babies and children may include:

Babies:

  • Not reacting normally to sounds
  • Not startling with noise
  • Trouble locating the source of sound or voices
  • Speech delays
  • Trouble developing correct speech sounds 

Children:

  • Difficulty following directions
  • Speech delays or falling back in speech development 
  • Difficulties in school or sudden changes in academic performance
  • Communication difficulties
  • Behavioral problems
  • Distracted 
  • Listening to the television or radio louder than others

How Doctors Diagnose 

If you are worried about your baby or child’s hearing, it’s important to speak with your pediatrician right away. Screening for hearing loss is simple and painless. In babies, it can even be performed while they are asleep.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all babies should have a hearing screening by the time they are 1 month old. If they don’t pass, they should have a full hearing test before turning 3 months of age. 

A full hearing test, also called an auditory evaluation, is performed by an audiologist who is trained in testing hearing. There are different types of testing, including:

  • Auditory brainstem response (ABR) test or brainstem auditory evoked response (BAER) test: This checks the brain’s response to sound and can be performed while the child is sleeping.
  • Otoacoustic emissions (OAE): This checks the response of the inner ear to sound and can also be performed while the child is asleep.
  • Behavioral audiometry evaluation: This checks the function of all parts of the ear and how well a child responds to sounds. This requires the child to be awake and able to respond to the sounds heard during testing.

Hearing Loss Can Be Treated and Managed.

In many cases, hearing loss is a treatable condition. It is worth taking the time out to get the answers and treatment you or your loved one deserves. Don’t wait. Start today.