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Hearing loss in children: Do you know what to look for?

By learning to recognize hearing loss in children and getting help, you improve a child's odds for healthy development.

We may think of hearing loss as an old person's problem. But that isn't always the case.

According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, 3 million children have a hearing problem.

Detecting hearing loss in very young children is very important. If left untreated, children with hearing loss may experience difficulty with speech and language development.

Recognizing hearing loss and risk factors

As a child grows older, it may become easier to detect hearing problems. Even when your child is very young, however, you may notice important clues to hearing loss. A newborn child may have the following signs:

  • Does not move, cry or otherwise react to unexpected loud noises.
  • Does not turn his or her head in the direction of someone's voice.
  • Does not make vowel sounds—he or she may focus on gargling and other vibrating noises.

However, it can be difficult for parents to tell if their baby can't hear.

According to the American Academy of Audiology (AAA), infants are at higher risk for hearing problems if there's a family history of hearing problems in children. Hearing loss is also more likely if the child needed intensive care with a heart and lung machine or if he or she was diagnosed with an infection such as meningitis before or after birth.

If you suspect hearing loss in your child at any time during his or her life, ask for a formal hearing evaluation.

Getting help

The sooner you know there's a problem, the sooner you can do something about it.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all newborns receive a hearing screening before being discharged from the hospital.

Children as young as 3 months old who still have some functional hearing can be fitted with hearing aids. A child who is diagnosed early may also benefit from education programs that can help maximize existing hearing. This can improve speech and language development.

    reviewed 11/1/2019

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