Knowledge

Identifying Hearing Loss in Infants and Children

Identifying a potential hearing loss in your child at a young age is imperative to preventing further damage.

It can be distressing to learn that your infant or young child has a hearing loss. It's important to learn about different types of hearing loss in babies and to understand diagnosis and treatment options so that you can help your child hear their best. In fact, it’s critical to treat infant hearing loss as soon as possible to help your child stay on track with language development.

Early treatment may mean that your child’s language and speech could develop much the same as a child without hearing loss, helping them capture key information vital to their success.

Infant Hearing Tests

If your infant fails his or her hearing test (often conducted in the hospital before you go home with your new baby), the most important first step is to have the test repeated, as a number of factors can cause incorrect results, including:

  • background noise during the test
  • the child moving during the test
  • temporary ear blockages from the birth process

If a second test shows a possible hearing loss as well, you’ll want to follow up with a hearing care professional for a full screening.

Signs of Hearing Loss in Infants and Children

Even if your child passes their infant test, it’s good to pay attention to symptoms that could indicate hearing loss. If you notice any of the following, follow up with your pediatrician or a hearing care professional for evaluation.

Infants who:

  • don’t startle at loud noises
  • aren’t soothed by music
  • don’t make vowel sounds by around two months of age

4-8 months old:

  • don’t turn their head towards your voice or other noises
  • don’t “babble”
  • don’t try to imitate sounds by six months of age

9- 12 months old:

  • don’t respond to music in any way
  • don’t respond to their name
  • don’t make several different consonant sounds while babbling

15 months old:

  • don't speak at least single words

2+ years old:

  • don’t speak at least simple, two-word sentences

Note that this list is not comprehensive; speak with a hearing care professional if you have any concerns about your child’s ability to hear.

Early Treatment

If your young child is diagnosed with hearing loss, it is important to seek care from a hearing professional right away to determine the best course of treatment. The March of Dimes reports that children born with hearing loss should begin receiving treatment before six months of age if possible.

They note that “studies suggest that children treated this early usually are able to develop communication skills (using spoken or sign language) that are as good as those of hearing peers.” 

Hearing and speech are closely linked, so it’s critical to pay close attention to speech and language development in a child with hearing loss. There may be government-sponsored programs, such as Early Intervention / Early Steps in your State, available to you at little or no charge. Ask your pediatrician or hearing care professional for more information on services available in your area.

Hearing Aids for Children

If you and your hearing care professional decide that hearing aids are the best treatment for your child’s hearing loss, you’ll be glad to know that children’s hearing aids have come a long way in recent decades. Today’s hearing aids for children are designed to be small in size, made to stay in place, more powerful in their capabilities, and more comfortable to wear. Children can even choose hearing aids made in their favorite colors or they can decorate their hearing aids with a variety of accessories - including charms!

Support for Parents

It can feel overwhelming when your child is diagnosed with a hearing loss—but you are not alone. Your hearing care professional may be able to connect you up with local resources, or you can find more information online at the Boys Town National Research Hospital’s website under “my baby’s hearing” or the Hearing Loss Association of America’s page for parents of children with hearing loss.

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