Hearing Loss In Children: The Signs, Causes And Treatment

Hearing loss in children can be very concerning for you as a parent. It can also be frustrating and scary for your child. However, many children who have some form of hearing loss manage extremely well.


hearing loss


Signs Of Hearing Loss


There are a few symptoms that can indicate that your child may have temporary, mild or progressive deafness:

  • Not responding when called
  • Not hearing someone talking to them when there’s background noise.
  • Mishearing words
  • Mispronouncing words
  • Wanting the volume of things higher than others
  • Difficulty reading and concentrating
  • Delayed speech and communication
  • Red ears in babies or pulling at the ears.
  • Changes in behaviour – becoming withdrawn or frustrated.


Be aware that often some of the symptoms of hearing loss can be mistaken for naughtiness, or stubbornness.


Causes Of Hearing Loss


There are several reasons why a child may have hearing loss. It also isn’t always possible to get a definitive reason. You may be offered testing to investigate a cause, however, this is only able to identify the cause in around 40-50% of children.


Causes Before Birth


There are a few syndromes that can cause hearing loss. These include:

  • Alport syndrome
  • Branchio-Oto-Renal syndrome
  • CHARGE syndrome
  • Crouzon syndrome
  • Down’s syndrome
  • Goldenhar syndrome
  • Jervell and Lange Nielsen syndrome
  • Pendred syndrome, where children have enlarged vestibular aqueducts
  • Stickler syndrome
  • Treacher Collins syndrome
  • Usher syndrome Type 1 and Type 2
  • Waardenburg syndrome
  • Wolfram Syndrome


Hearing loss can also be caused by complications in pregnancy. Illnesses such as rubella, toxoplasmosis, and herpes can cause issues in the baby’s hearing. There are also medications that can cause hearing loss.


Causes Of Hearing Loss In Childhood


Premature babies tend to have a slightly higher risk of hearing loss. This is because they’re more at risk of some of the infections and illnesses that can cause hearing loss, such as meningitis, mumps, or measles. Other issues such as severe jaundice or lack of oxygen can cause hearing issues.

Some children can be born with enlarged vestibular aqueducts, which can cause hearing loss. This may be progressive or develop in early childhood. Some children can develop a disease called cholesteatoma. Others may develop a condition called otosclerosis, which can happen at any time, but is more common during the teenage and young adult years.

Sometimes, hearing loss can be caused by a head injury, or exposure to loud noises. Ototoxic drugs can be a potential cause of hearing loss. For example, drugs used in treating childhood cancers can cause deterioration.

Temporary deafness is often caused by glue ear




The first step in treating hearing loss is to carry out tests and assessments. The types of testing and assessment used will depend on the age and development of your child. They may include:


Objective Testing

Objective testing measures the function of the ear and the hearing nerve pathways. This type of testing doesn’t usually need the child to respond or show that they’ve heard the sounds.


Behavioural Hearing Assessments

Behavioural hearing assessments do record the child’s response to sounds. For babies, this may be something like startling, or turning their heads. For older children, they may be asked to say yes or move a toy if they can hear the noise. The audiologist will use toys and games as part of the assessment.


Speech Discrimination Tests

Speech discrimination tests will assess your child’s ability to hear words at different levels. They will be asked to identify toys or items, or to copy words from a recording. This test may also be used to assess lip reading and signing abilities.



Tympanometry isn’t really a hearing test. It’s a test that checks how the middle ear is working. A small earpiece is held in the ear canal, and a small pressure of air is pumped. The eardrum should move freely.


Treating Hearing Loss

The treatment for hearing loss is dependent on many different factors. Some treatments can include hearing aids which are fitted behind the ears, or hearing implants. Hearing implants involve a surgical procedure. Your child’s audiologist will be able to discuss potential treatments in detail with you based on the results of the assessments and testing.

If you are worried about your child’s hearing, speak to your local GP or healthcare provider.