Signs of Pediatric Hearing Loss

Signs of Pediatric Hearing Loss

Dr. Marina E. Kade Hearing Loss, Signs & Symptoms

Dr. Marina E. Kade

How well a child hears affects many other things, like their cognitive skills and how well they do in school later. Newborns get hearing tests, which can find problems like deafness at birth.

One to three out of every 1,000 children has trouble hearing. Every state in the US participates in the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) program, and screening tests are done on all babies born in the hospital. If your baby is born at home or in a birthing center, this test must be done within the first three weeks.

But even if a child’s hearing was fine when born, it can worsen as they age. It’s essential to check your child’s hearing and look for signs that they might have a problem hearing.

Different kinds of hearing loss in children

The primary way to tell where a child’s hearing loss comes from is whether it is in the inner, middle, or outer ear.

Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss is hearing loss caused by a problem in the outer or middle ear. With conductive hearing loss, the inner ear usually works, but the outer or middle ear is damaged or blocked, making it hard for sound to reach the inner ear. Children usually only have conductive hearing loss for a short time and it can be treated. Sounds from the outside are quieter, but the person’s voice is louder than usual.

A lot of things can cause conductive hearing loss.

  • Ear infections (otitis media): The most common cause of conductive hearing loss in children is an infection in the middle ear. Most kids will get at least one ear infection growing up.
  • Ear wax (cerumen): Wax in the ear canal can block sound waves from getting to the eardrum, like a plug. Extra wax can be flushed out or removed by a doctor or other trained professional after it has been softened with wax-softening drops. Cotton swabs should never be used to get rid of impacted wax because they could push the wax deeper into the ear canal and hurt the eardrum if pushed in too far.
  • “Swimmer’s ear,” or “otitis externa,” is a common condition that affects the outer ear canal. It can make the ear canal swell shut, making it hard to hear for a while. When the ear canal stays wet after bathing or swimming, bacteria grow and cause this painful infection.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the inner ear. It is caused by problems with the sensory or auditory pathways to the brain from the cochlea. It is usually present at birth. It can also happen if you listen to loud music or noise all the time or take medicines that can hurt your hearing. Sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, and medicine or surgery can’t fix it. Hearing aids or cochlear implants can help most of the time.

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is the only type that can be avoided entirely. When sounds are too loud, even for a short time, or when they are loud and last for a long time, they can be harmful. It’s essential to keep your child away from loud noises that could hurt them. You can reduce the volume, put up barriers, or move your child.

Signs of hearing loss in children

When a child is older and has better speech skills, it is harder to tell if they might have trouble hearing. Still, the following tips from the American Hearing Health Foundation can help parents determine if their child may have gotten hearing loss over time.

  • Sometimes, your child seems to hear OK, but they don’t respond other times.
  • Your child wants the volume on the TV to be louder than what the rest of the family wants.
  • Your child asks more “What?”
  • When your child listens, he moves one ear forward or says he can only hear out of his “good ear.”
  • Your child’s grades drop, or their teacher says they don’t seem to hear or respond in class as well as other kids.
  • Your kid says they didn’t hear what you said. This may seem like a no-brainer, but many parents think their kids aren’t paying attention when there may be a hearing loss they don’t know about.
  • It looks like your kid needs to pay more attention.
  • Your child starts to talk louder than they did before.
  • If your child looks at you intently when you talk to them, as if they are trying to figure out what you are saying, they may be relying more on visual clues to figure out what you are saying.

You feel something is wrong, but you can’t put your finger on what worries you. That shouldn’t stop you. You should talk to your family doctor if you think your child might have trouble hearing.