Hearing Loss in Children

Hearing Loss in Children

Hearing loss in children impacts their ability to develop speech and language and social skills at the same rate as their normal hearing chronological peers.

If your baby does not react to the sound of a doorbell ringing, or to you calling from another room or from behind, this might indicate that something is wrong. The type and degree of hearing loss can vary, but in most cases hearing problems can be remediated.


Types of hearing loss

There are different types of hearing loss:

Conductive hearing loss is due to some sort of blockage in the outer or middle ear, preventing the sound from being conducted normally to th  e inner ear.

Sensory hearing loss is due to problems with the hair cells in the inner ear that prevents the cochlea from sensing sound normally.

Neural hearing loss occurs when the brain either completely fails to process electrical pulses, or fails to interpret them correctly. The term “auditory dys-synchrony” can also be used to describe a neural hearing loss.

Sensorineural hearing loss is when there are problems with the hair cells and also some distortion in processing of sound signals by the brain. Permanent hearing loss is usually referred to as sensorineural because it is hard to establish exactly how the cochlea and the brain are contributing to the hearing problem, especially in a young child.

Mixed hearing loss is a combination of conductive and sensorineural loss. In this type of loss, sound is not being transmitted normally from the outer or middle ear to the inner ear, and there are problems with the inner ear and neural parts of the auditory system as well.


Signs of hearing loss

If your child is exhibiting one or more of the following signs, we recommend getting their hearing checked:

  • they have frequent ear infections.

  • they have difficulty locating sounds.

  • they are not startled by loud sounds.

  • they daydream and withdraw in social situations.

  • their ability to produce and understand spoken language is delayed for their age.

  • when they babble, it sounds monotonous, and no progress is being made.


Causes of hearing loss

The exact cause of a child’s hearing loss can be difficult to pinpoint.  It can be due to genes passed down from the parents; an infection the mother contracted while pregnant; or treatments used to save the life of a very sick baby.

Hearing loss can also occur along with other problems present at birth with the eyes, heart, kidneys etc.  Hearing loss cannot be attributed to types of foods, falls, or most illnesses during pregnancy. Often the cause of a child’s hearing loss is unknown.

Your doctor will be able to provide more information on this subject.


Treating a child’s hearing loss – the sooner, the better

The gap between the vocabulary of children with normal hearing and those with hearing loss widens with age.  Without intervention, children with hearing loss do not catch up and therefore it is important to act if you suspect your child has a hearing loss.

It is well recognized that hearing is critical to speech and language development, communication, and learning. Children with listening difficulties due to hearing loss or auditory processing problems continue to be an under-identified and under-served population.

The earlier hearing loss occurs in a child’s life, the more serious the effects on the child’s development.  Similarly, the earlier the problem is identified and intervention begun, the less serious the ultimate impact.


The first step to using hearing aids

In order for your child to develop full, rich, verbal language, children need to be able to tune into all of the speech sounds audible to them.  Hearing aids widen the listening bubble and enable some children to catch almost all of the language going on around them.  But others have such severe hearing loss that even hearing aids cannot help them catch all of the speech sounds.

It is critical to be able to hear as much as possible during all waking hours. Just as you rely on light in order to move around confidently and fully understand and enjoy all of the activities going on around you, your child relies on their hearing aids to help them get the most out of their surroundings and their language opportunities.

You should therefore check their hearing aids at least once a day.  Dead batteries or blocked ear molds can stop them from listening and learning language, and you would not want that to happen.  Every day offers new learning opportunities.


Helps development of essential brain structures

Even children with minimal hearing can benefit from hearing aids because the amplified sound produces some stimulation and growth of the auditory centers of the brain.  These brain structures are best developed when a child is very young.  This is why it is important to get hearing aids as early as possible.

Even if you are not emotionally ready for this step, it is the right thing to do for your child’s future development.  Research has shown that a delay of just a few months of wearing hearing aids after the hearing loss has been identified can cause serious language delays that may not be able to be overcome.

Brown hair, blue eyes, freckles, hearing loss… we cannot predict everything about our children’s looks or abilities before they are born. Hearing loss is just as much a part of your child as the color of their eyes.


Many options

If you can acknowledge that hearing aids will play a key role in shaping their future, and show that they make you no less proud of your child, they will be worn with just as much ease as a pair of shoes.  Choosing different colored hearing aids and/or different colored ear molds can help your child express their individuality.

It can also make them more inclined to show off the technology that makes hearing so much easier.  Your child needs to believe that you see them as a whole and wonderful person who just happens to have a hearing loss, and that you will be there to provide love and guidance, whenever challenges may arise.  With your support they will be able to do just as well as children without hearing loss. 

Courtesy of  Oticon


Sound Hearing Audiology and Speech – Dr. Robin Zeller, Ph.D.
50 Hazelwood Drive, Jericho NY 11753
Audiologist, Speech Language Pathologist, Speech Therapy, Hearing Aids, Hearing Loss Treatments for Adults and Children