Merck Manual

Please confirm that you are not located inside the Russian Federation

honeypot link
Quick Facts

Hearing Problems in Children

(Hearing Loss in Children)


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Jul 2020| Content last modified Jul 2020
Click here for the Professional Version
Get the full details
Topic Resources

Children can be born with hearing problems or develop them later on.

  • In newborns, genetic defects are the most common cause of hearing problems

  • In children with previous good hearing, the most common causes are ear infections and wax build-up

  • Infants with hearing loss don't respond to sounds

  • Older children may have trouble learning to talk

  • Doctors routinely check the hearing of newborns

  • Doctors treat the cause of hearing loss

  • If the cause of hearing loss can't be treated, your child may need a hearing aid or surgery for a cochlear implant

What causes hearing loss in children?

The common causes of hearing loss depend on the child's age.

In newborns, the most common cause is:

  • A genetic defect (passed to the child from the parents)

In babies and children, the most common causes are:

In older children, other causes include:

  • A head injury

  • Loud noises

  • Certain infections

  • Certain medicines

  • Objects stuck in the ear

What are the symptoms of hearing loss in children?

Symptoms of very bad hearing loss

  • Not responding to sounds

  • Having trouble talking clearly or starting to talk later than expected

Symptoms of mild to moderate hearing loss

  • Appearing to ignore people who are talking to them

  • Talking and hearing well at home but not when outside or in school, due to the background noise in public places

How can doctors tell if my child has hearing loss?

A newborn baby's hearing is tested in the hospital before going home.

  • Doctors use a handheld device that bounces sound waves off the baby's eardrums

If that device suggests a hearing problem, doctors do more complicated tests that:

  • Monitor the baby's brainwaves while playing sounds in each ear

For older children who can answer questions, doctors can do standard hearing tests.

If the tests show a hearing problem, doctors do additional tests to figure out what’s causing the hearing loss. They also check how well your child's language skills are developing.

How do doctors treat hearing loss in children?

Doctors will treat the cause of the hearing loss, if possible. For example, your child's doctor may:

  • Give medicine to treat an infection

  • Remove earwax

If the cause of your child’s hearing loss can't be fixed, doctors may suggest:

  • A hearing aid

  • Special training in language and communication, including learning sign language

  • A cochlear implant

Hearing aids are available even for babies and young children.

A cochlear implant is a device that uses electrical signals to help with hearing. It is implanted surgically.

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
Click here for the Professional Version
Others also read

Test your knowledge

Abortion is defined as the intentional ending of a pregnancy by surgery or drugs. Which of the following statements about abortion in the United States is most accurate? 
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID

Also of Interest

Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID