Can my child hear?

Does your child seem to ignore you when you call his or her name? Do they have a speech delay or is their speech unclear? If your child is exhibiting these or other traits, they could have a hearing loss.

What causes hearing loss in children?

According to a parent survey published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s estimated that 1.7 babies per 1,000 newborns who are screened, indicate some level of hearing loss. In older children, five out of 1,000 ages 3 to 17 have hearing loss.

So, what causes hearing loss in babies and children?

There are several reasons why children may experience hearing problems. Some babies are born with hearing loss. Some of the causes of congenital hearing loss, from birth, include:

• Birth complications including herpes, rubella, toxoplasmosis and lack of oxygen
• Brain or nervous system disorders
• Maternal diabetes
• The mother using drugs or alcohol during pregnancy
• Other infections during pregnancy

In older children, hearing loss that occurs any time after birth is known as acquired hearing loss. Some causes for this include:

• Complications due to infections, such as meningitis, measles or whooping cough
Head injuries
• Frequent ear infections
• Perforated eardrum
• Noise induced hearing loss
• Being exposed to secondhand smoke

Additionally, some children can experience transient hearing loss in which their hearing comes and goes. This is often caused by middle ear infections when fluid builds up in the ear. Usually, this type of hearing loss is temporary and is resolved when the ear infection clears.

Autism and hearing loss

Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disorder that affects a child’s ability to communicate and engage appropriately in social interactions. Autism affects children differently. For some it can affect the way they hear and processes sounds. As a result, they may struggle with speech and language development as well as hearing loss. If your child seems to have hearing problems and they’re exhibiting other signs of autism, talk to your pediatrician. It’s also important to note that while your child may show signs of hearing loss, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she is autistic.

Signs of hearing loss in babies and children

The signs of hearing loss aren’t always obvious. Often, hearing problems in children are not caught right away. Here are some signs and symptoms of hearing loss:

• Baby doesn’t react to loud sounds
• Baby stops babbling and making sounds
• Baby or child has speech or language delays
• Baby or child can’t identify where sounds are coming from
• Child can’t follow simple commands
• Child can’t understand what others are saying unless they are looking directly at the person speaking
• Child shows signs of behavioral or social problems in school

What do I do if my child has hearing loss?

First, speak with your pediatrician about a getting a screening or hearing test for your child. Your pediatrician will most likely refer you to a pediatric audiologist who will be able to determine if your child is struggling with their hearing. If your child does have hearing loss, things like hearing aids, cochlear implants and speech and language therapy may help your child cope with their hearing challenges.

University Children’s Health is committed to improving the lives of children who have hearing or balance problems. Our pediatric audiologists have the experience and skills needed to successfully treat and diagnose hearing loss. For more information, contact us at 210-358-4583.