Recognizing and Treating Hearing Loss in Children

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Doctor checking boy's ear; mother in foreground

If you experienced a change in your hearing, you’d be able to communicate what was happening. However, dealing with hearing loss in infants and young children is completely different. They can’t tell you what’s wrong. Instead, it’s important to watch for signals that could mean there’s a problem with their hearing.

Signs of hearing loss can be subtle.

It can be difficult to recognize when young children are struggling with hearing problems. The signs of hearing loss vary from one child to another. They’re also different for babies than they are for young kids.

If your baby has any of the following signs, consult your doctor and ask about hearing loss:

  • Doesn’t startle at loud noises like a dog barking or a door slamming
  • Doesn’t turn toward sounds by six months of age
  • Doesn’t turn his or her head when called by name, even if your baby turns his or her head upon seeing you

  • Doesn’t say any words, such as “mama” or “dada,” by the time he or she is one year old

For young children, watch for these signs of potential hearing loss:

  • Doesn’t follow directions
  • Doesn’t speak very clearly
  • Has a delay in speech development
  • Says “what? or “huh?” frequently
  • Turns up the TV volume to a high level

Screening tests can identify hearing loss in children.

Most babies receive a hearing screening while they’re still in the hospital. All babies should receive this screening by one month of age. Children should receive a hearing screening at 5, 6, 8 and 10 years of age, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Many schools provide the screening. If you suspect your child has hearing loss, he or she should receive a hearing screening right away.

If your baby or child fails his or her hearing screening, a hearing test will likely be necessary. There are several types of hearing tests audiologists—experts who are trained to test hearing—can use. Some can even take place while your baby sleeps.

Treatment and support can help children with hearing loss.

If your baby or child has hearing loss, there are many different treatment options available. Your doctor and audiologist can help you find the treatments or services that are right for your child. These may include:

  • Early intervention services to help your child learn speech, language, and social skills

  • Medications or surgery to treat conditions contributing to hearing loss, such as chronic ear infections or problems with ear development that were present at birth

  • Special education services to help children with disabilities or developmental delays

  • Technology to make the most of the hearing your child does have, such as hearing aids, cochlear implants, and other devices

If you think your child may have hearing loss, ask your pediatrician for a hearing screening right away. Hearing loss can interfere with a child’s development of speech, language, and communication skills. The sooner your child begins treatment, the better off he or she will be.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Sep 4
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

  1. Promoting Hearing Health in Schools. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  2. Hearing Loss Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.   

  3. Hearing Loss Screening and Diagnosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

  4. Hearing Loss Treatment and Intervention Services. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.