Hearing Loss and Impairment

Also known as: conductive hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL), mixed hearing loss, noise-induced hearing loss.

What are hearing loss and impairment?

Any condition that reduces a child’s ability to hear sounds with their ears is known as hearing loss or hearing impairment. There are several kinds and many causes of hearing loss or impairment. It can also range widely in severity. All infants (within a few hours of birth) and children can have accurate hearing assessments.


What causes hearing loss and impairment?

Causes may be divided into four broad categories:

  1. Congenital hearing loss- those causes that are related to “perinatal” life (abnormalities from problems occurring during maternal pregnancy, birth complications and those that occur immediately after birth), and abnormality of hearing related to “genetic/syndromic/family associated” causes.

  2. Acquired hearing loss like those causes occurring from “later in childhood” problems (like the “flu”, otitis media, meningitis/encephalitis, measles, chickenpox, head injuries etc. and some medications - in adolescents repetitive exposure to loud noise may cause hearing impairment).

  3. Hearing loss from abnormalities that may occur in the each anatomical parts of the ear and hearing system (outer ear, middle ear, inner ear, nerve conduction to the brain and brain abnormalities relating to the hearing process).

  4. In many cases the cause may be unknown.


What are the symptoms of hearing loss and impairment? 

Early signs (birth to 4 months) of hearing impairment include a baby’s lack of reaction to loud noises, no response to a voice, or the infant only makes simple sounds. Later, (4-9 months), symptoms include failure to turn eyes toward a familiar sound or smile when spoken to and/or failure to make “babbling sounds”. By 15-24 months hearing impaired infants fail to follow simple commands, put 2 words together, listen to stories etc.

Otitis media (a common cause of hearing difficulty later in childhood) may present with the child rubbing or pulling the ear, fever, earache, irritability, and not following the spoken direction.

Depending on what the cause, when it occurs and its severity, hearing loss may be permanent or transient and can result in poor speech and language development, social problems and academic difficulties.


What are hearing loss and impairment care options? 

Treatment for hearing loss and impairment varies and is based on the nature of the condition and its severity. Medications, surgery, cochlear implants, dietary changes, rehabilitation therapy and hearing aids are all available to enhance your child’s ability to achieve his/her maximum potential

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: 6/15/2018 8:04:22 AM

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