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What Causes Hearing Loss in Children?

a young child receiving a hearing exam

Hearing loss is something that many people experience in life. Children are able to lose their hearing in some shape or form and to help understand what causes hearing loss is important to know, should you ever find yourself in that scenario. So, what causes hearing loss in children?

A child could be diagnosed with some form of hearing loss if they can’t hear sounds below a certain level of volume. This is something that is tested on children when they’re young, and it’s important to ensure you’re getting their hearing checked regularly. The minimum threshold is around 15-20 decibels of sound. This translates to something like whispering. Everyone is different, and that is the same for the levels of hearing loss experienced. Some might have mild levels, some moderate, some severe and some profound.

What causes hearing loss?

Some babies can be born with hearing loss, otherwise known as congenital hearing loss. There are many things that can contribute to hearing loss but for the most part, it is like to be the cause of genes, meaning it’s been inherited. The genetic factors that can cause hearing loss might be autosomal recessive hearing loss. This is the most common, and it means that neither parent has hearing loss, but each parent carries a recessive gene which ends up being passed down to the child. Autosomal dominant hearing loss is where one parent carries a dominant gene and therefore, can possibly pass it down to their child.

Some of the non-genetic factors that can cause hearing loss might be from birth complications. Any severe infections or a lack of oxygen could contribute to hearing loss. Premature birth can sometimes affect the risk of hearing loss as well as the use of drugs during pregnancy. Any type of drug or alcohol abuse can generally be bad for the baby, but it’s another factor to consider.

Spotting the symptoms

It’s good to know the symptoms that might indicate that your child has hearing loss to some degree so that you can approach an audiologist should you need one. Hospitals will routinely check your baby’s hearing, but here are a few symptoms at various ages that can be a sign:

Newborns 

  • Isn’t startled by loud or unexpected noises
  • Doesn’t seem to respond to your voice

Infant

  • Isn’t babbling very much or making much sound
  • Doesn’t respond to their name being said

Young Child:

  • Can’t follow the basic commands
  • Struggles to form words

For older children, the hearing loss might be more obvious to them and therefore, they can let you know if they experience it themselves. However, some obvious signs that you might be able to spot could be that they’re having trouble understanding what people are saying. They may ask to have things repeated to them a number of times and they complain of pain in their ears or noises.

What hearing tests are available?

As well as the initial testing that is done by hospital staff, you’ll have the opportunity to go to a local audiologist in your area to receive a test. There are a couple of tests for infants and young children including visual reinforcement audiometry and play audiometry.

Visual audiometry is where a child sits in a sound booth on the parent’s lap with two speakers either side. With young infants and children, they tend to turn their head in response to sound. The audiologist will be able to play with sound in order to see where there might be gaps in their hearing. Play audiometry involves a game where they’ll complete an activity or task once they’ve heard the sound. It makes it fun but also helps them to concentrate on hearing something in order to get a reward.

When it comes to treating hearing loss, there are options available. You might want to consider a hearing aid to help with improving the ability to hear. There are also cochlear implants which are devices that are surgically implanted to help with sound and speech therapy or assisted listening devices to help develop their speech and hearing capabilities. There are always going to be some form of solutions to help those with hearing loss.

If you have any concerns about your child’s hearing, whether they’re young or even an older child, that experiences temporary hearing loss. You can learn more about Hadassah Kupfer, Au.D for guidance on how to navigate the process of hearing loss for a child. You can also call at 917-791-1510 for more information.