Head & Neck

What to Do If Your Child Has Difficulty Hearing

written by Collin County ENT

Hearing loss can have a serious impact on children of all ages.

When the hearing is affected, it can have an impact on all areas of a child’s life: social skills, language, and speech. These skills are developed in the earliest years of life, which is why it is essential the child can hear clearly.

As a parent, you want the best for your child – so what should you do if your child is having a hard time hearing? It’s important that you get help!

The sooner you talk to a doctor about your child’s hearing concerns, the more likely the child will be able to reach their fullest potential. Our team at Collin County Ear, Nose, and Throat is just a phone call away.

Causes of Childhood Hearing Loss

If any part of the ear is not working correctly, then it can result in hearing loss – either partial loss or a full loss of hearing. The specific causes of hearing loss vary from one child to the next and might be due to issues in the auditory system, nerves, inner ear, middle ear, or outer ear.

According to the World Health Organization, 60% of childhood hearing loss is preventable.

Here are some of the many causes that could impair a child’s hearing:

  • Genetic Factors: About 40% of all childhood hearing problems are caused by genetics. Genetic factors might result in malformations within the hearing nerve or ear.
  • Birth Conditions: Complications at birth can increase the risk of hearing loss. Common birth concerns include prematurity, birth asphyxia (lack of oxygen), jaundice, or low birth weight.
  • Loud Sounds: A child exposed to loud sounds could experience hearing loss. For example, listening to headphones at a loud volume for a prolonged time could damage the ears.
  • Infections and Diseases: Childhood diseases can play a role in hearing loss: mumps, meningitis, measles, or otitis media. Ear infections can also damage the ear. In some situations, the hearing loss is temporarily caused by too much ear wax or an accumulation of fluid. Clearing the wax or fluid will restore the child’s hearing.
  • Medications: Some prescription medications have potential side effects that can damage hearing, including medications used for the treatment of cancer, tuberculosis, malaria, and neonatal infections.

Sometimes, it’s not possible to identify the exact cause of hearing loss. But an experienced ENT will complete thorough testing to determine the severity and any identifiable causes. This information is valuable in treating hearing loss and minimizing the risk of more loss of hearing in the future.

Symptoms of Hearing Loss in Children

Children can often adapt to changing circumstances, which is why parents don’t always notice the signs and symptoms of hearing loss. The symptoms also vary depending on the age of the child.

Babies: Symptoms of Hearing Loss

  • No response or startling when a loud noise occurs
  • After the age of 6 months, the child doesn’t turn to the source of a sound
  • By 1 year old, the child doesn’t say simple words like “mama” or “dada”
  • Responds to some sounds, but not others
  • Only responds to visual stimulation, not audible noises

Children: Symptoms of Hearing Loss

As a child grows, the symptoms of hearing loss change. A growing child might have one or more of these signs:

  • Delayed speech
  • Unclear speech
  • Difficulty following directions
  • Turns the TV or radio volume up too loud
  • Often asks “huh?” or “what?”
  • Rubbing or pulling at the ear
  • Not paying attention to things happening in the room

Keep in mind that these signs vary from one child to the next. If you suspect your child is experiencing any level of hearing loss, then it’s smart to schedule a hearing screening right away. An experienced ENT can help parents in identifying how the child is reaching important milestones for communication, learning, and play. It’s possible that delays with these milestones could be a sign of developmental problems or hearing loss.

Screening to Test a Child’s Hearing

Rest assured to know that a hearing screening is a simple and painless process. It only takes a few minutes for a doctor to do an initial hearing test.

The recommendation is for babies to have their hearing screened by 1 month of age. Often this test is standard procedure in the hospital when the child is born. Children should have a hearing test again when they are registered for school.

The severity of hearing loss will affect the child’s experience when communicating with other people.

  • Mild Hearing Loss: Even a slight hearing impairment can result in the child being unable to hear speech against background noise or hear someone from a distance.
  • Moderate Hearing Loss: A moderate hearing loss means that the child might struggle to understand regular speech, even when they are in a quiet environment and at a close distance to the speaker.
  • Severe Hearing Loss: At this point, the child can only hear loud sounds, such as someone yelling, a door slamming, or a truck siren. Most conversation speech is not understood.
  • Profound Hearing Loss: The child might have minimal or no ability to hear noises. They can only perceive large sounds as a vibration sensation.

Why Hearing Treatment is Critical in Childhood

As a parent, it’s important that you are proactive in supporting your child with hearing loss treatment. Untreated hearing loss often slows the child’s development during the most critical learning years. Additionally, the child could potentially be at a higher risk for behavioral issues due to frustration with communication. Hearing loss is also a factor in the child’s risk of injury because of decreased alertness.

Your ear, nose, and throat doctor will take a proactive approach in monitoring and treating the child’s hearing loss. Potential treatments might include:

  • Observation: Monitoring changes in the child’s hearing to see if the condition goes away on its own or worsens with time.
  • Ear Tubes: A minor surgical procedure of ear tubes can be helpful in minimizing ear infections and helping the fluid drain.
  • Hearing Aids: Technology used to amplify noises and support the child’s hearing. Even children as young as 1 month old can benefit from the use of hearing aids – although it’s important to work with an experienced doctor to ensure the right device is selected. Some students benefit from the use of FM transmitter systems in school. 
  • Cochlear Implants: Electronic devices can be implanted in the inner ear to assist with hearing. This treatment is only recommended if hearing aids don’t help the child.

ENT Services: Find the Right Treatment for Childhood Hearing Loss

Not only can you work with a hearing expert to design the right treatment plan, but children with hearing loss are entitled to educational support through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (ADEA).

Keep in mind that early support and treatment is the key to minimize the long-term consequences of hearing loss. Working with an ENT increases the likelihood that your child will be able to communicate and participate in social activities.

For more information about hearing testing and treatments, our team is here to assist. We offer personalized ENT services for families near the Collin County, Denton or Dallas areas.

Contact Collin County Ear, Nose, and Throat to book an exam at one of our offices in Frisco or Plano, TX. We have an online form you can use for an appointment request or call us at (972) 596-4005.

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“This was my first time visiting this office. These folks were super friendly!! Starting with the front desk to all the help in the back, the Dr. Littlejohn was very patient and listened to all my concerns. I dealt with 5 people total due to testing and they all were genuinely nice! Loved it, and not to mention quick service. Great customer service, I’ll be sure to refer family and friends! ”

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“I have used Collin Co. ENT and Dr. Kenny Carter for over 3 years, primarily for ear problems. The staff has been consistently helpful and friendly to me. When I have had problems needing immediate attention and explained the need, have been able to get an appointment within a reasonable time to address the problem. I recommend Dr. Carter and his staff.”

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