According to audiologists, parents often complain that their child does not hear them, makes them repeat instructions or watches television at high volumes. What many parents may not realize is that these are some of the signs of hearing loss. Parents sometimes fail to realize that their child suffers from hearing loss because of their preconceived notion that hearing loss occurs only in old age. However, hearing loss can occur at any age.

Approximately 42 million children suffer from some kind of hearing impairment. To ensure that their child does not suffer much from this disability, parents need to understand the causes, symptoms and treatment of hearing loss.

Types of pediatric hearing loss

There are two main types of pediatric hearing loss:

  1. Congenital hearing loss
  2. Acquired hearing loss

What is congenital hearing loss?

Congenital hearing loss is present at birth and can be due to genetics or birth and pregnancy complications. However, almost half of the children with congenital hearing loss have it due to genetics. A mutation develops in the genes which leads to hearing loss. Contrary to general belief, family history isn’t the only factor; health conditions, diseases and other disorders, including down syndrome can also play a part in the development of the disability.

Complications at birth and during pregnancy can also lead to the development of hearing loss in children at birth. Infections incurred during pregnancy such as herpes and rubella, or the use of ototoxic medications are few of the causes of hearing loss.

What is acquired hearing loss?

Acquired hearing loss occurs right after birth. This could be due to diseases such as Meniere’s Disease, infections such as measles, exposure to loud noises or head trauma.

Symptoms to look out for?

Symptoms of hearing loss in children vary due to the degree of hearing loss as well as the age of the child. On the other hand, when it comes to diagnosing infants, it is extremely difficult to determine hearing loss in infants through simple behavioral cues. Due to this, many countries have made hearing loss tests part of the mandatory tests and screenings of infants. However, if hearing tests are not conducted at birth, parents should look out for one or more of these signs in infants:

  • Does he or she not get startled by loud noises?
  • Does he or she not recognize familiar voices during the age of 2 to 4 months?
  • Does he or she not speak even a word after a year?
  • Does he or she recognize some sounds but not all?

Similarly, children who are older can have acquired hearing loss. These children show one or more of the following signs:

  • Does not respond when called
  • Is not able to understand and follow instructions
  • Increases the volume while watching television
  • Is slow in developing communication skills (speech and language)
  • Asks regularly to repeat instructions
  • Often talks loudly
  • Is unable to detect the direction of sound

If your child is showing one or more of these symptoms, you should refer to a doctor and get hearing tests conducted on the child immediately. After the audiologist has determined the type and degree of hearing loss, they will suggest a medical procedure (surgery, medicines or hearing devices) accordingly.