5 Things to Know About Kids and Hearing Loss

Preschool children playing in classroom.

Good hearing is important for kids to learn and be safe. If hearing problems develop and go undetected, kids may struggle to grow and adapt to the world around them. Here are five things to know about kids and hearing loss.

1.  Frequency – It’s estimated that 2 percent of American children are born with hearing loss. It can occur in one or both ears and can be mild, moderate or severe.

  • About 90 percent of deaf children are born to two parents with normal hearing.
  • Kids with normal hearing at birth may develop hearing loss later on. Nearly 15 percent of kids ages 6 to 19 suffer from temporary or permanent hearing loss.

2.  Causes – Hearing experts have identified several reasons kids experience hearing loss, such as:

  • Genetics – Researchers believe that family genetics cause over 50 percent of hearing loss that kids experience at birth or later in life. Some babies develop hearing problems during pregnancy if the mother has diabetes or preeclampsia, takes ototoxic medications, or has a premature birth.
  • Ear infection – Children often have infections in the middle ear, called otitis media, because the tubes connecting the nose to the middle ear are not fully developed. Fluid can develop behind the eardrum and block sound transmissions through the ear. Sometimes the hearing loss is temporary as the problem resolves itself. But, if the problem occurs frequently and a severe infection develops, otitis media can create permanent hearing loss.
  • Injury, illness, medications – Children may develop hearing loss from head injuries, exposure to loud noises, medications, or illnesses, such as measles, chickenpox, flu, meningitis, or encephalitis. Research indicates that exposure to second-hand smoking can also affect kids’ hearing.

3.  Symptoms – Within 24 to 48 hours after birth, hospitals routinely check infants’ hearing. If problems are identified, a second screening is conducted a few weeks later. But sometimes kids who pass the initial test may develop hearing loss. Parents should continually watch their kids for signs of hearing problems, such as:

  • Fails to respond to voices or loud noises
  • Speaks differently than other kids of the same age, makes simple sounds that taper off, misunderstands questions or says “what?” or “huh?”
  • Complains of ear pain, earaches, or pulls and rubs at ear
  • Turns up the volume on the TV or digital devices
  • Sits close to the TV or computer screen, or holds digital devices close to the face
  • Struggles academically or doesn’t participate in class discussions

4.  Diagnosis – Every state now has an early hearing and detection program to screen infants for hearing problems and support families of kids with hearing loss. Parents who detect signs of hearing loss in their kids should ask their doctor about options for hearing tests and treatments.

5.  Treatments – Identifying and treating hearing problems at a young age can help kids develop normal speech and language skills. Depending on the type and severity of the hearing loss, treatment could include prescription medication, surgery, hearing aids, cochlear implants, speech therapy, or use of assistive learning devices in school classrooms.

Multiethnic group of kids sitting on floor in circle around the teacher and listening a story.









Healthy Hearing
National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management