Hearing Problems in Children

Hearing Problems in Children Family Doctor Logo


Why is it important to have my newborn baby screened for hearing problems?

Children learn how to talk by hearing and imitating the sounds of people around them. If your baby has a hearing problem, the use of a hearing device early on and other communication options can help avoid speech delays and problems.

Answer the questions in this article about your child to identify signs of a hearing problem. If you answer “no” to any question, ask your family doctor if your child should be checked for hearing problems.

Learn More About Hearing Problems in Children Diagnosis & Tests

Hearing Evaluation in Children


What are the signs of a hearing problem in a young child?

Signs of hearing loss in very young children may not be easy to notice. Hearing problems may not become obvious until children are 12 to 18 months of age, when they should begin saying their first words. Children who can’t hear well often respond to their environment by using their senses of sight and touch, which can hide their hearing problems.


How will my doctor diagnose my child?

Children who are born with hearing problems can usually be diagnosed with a hearing screening. All babies should have a hearing screening within 1 month after being born. Many hospitals screen newborn babies for hearing problems. If your newborn baby has not had a hearing screening, talk with your doctor.

Birth to 4 Months of Age

Is your baby startled by a sudden loud sound, such as a cough, a shout, a dog bark or a hand-clap?__________
When sleeping in a quiet room, does your baby move or wake up at the sound of voices or nearby noises?__________
When your baby is crying or fretful, does he or she seem to calm down, even for a few seconds, when you speak while out of his or her sight, when music starts or when there is a sudden loud noise?__________
At 3 to 4 months of age, does your baby sometimes turn his or her head or move his or her eyes toward a sound?__________
Does your baby seem to recognize his or her mother’s voice better than other voices?__________

4 to 8 Months of Age

Does your baby turn his or her head and eyes toward a sound when the sound is coming from outside your baby’s peripheral (side) vision?__________
In a quiet setting, does your baby’s expression change or do your baby’s eyes widen at the sound of a voice or a loud noise?__________
Does your baby enjoy ringing bells, squeezing noisemakers or shaking a rattle?__________
By 6 months of age, does your baby seem to talk or babble back to people who are speaking or making noises?__________
By 6 months of age, does your baby’s babbling include 4 different sounds?__________

8 to 12 Months of Age

Does your baby turn directly and quickly toward a soft noisemaker, to the calling of his or her name, or to a shush that is outside his or her peripheral (side) vision?__________
Does your baby’s voice go up and down in pitch when he or she is babbling?__________
Does your baby make several different consonant sounds (such as m, b, p, g) when he or she is babbling?__________
Does your baby seem to enjoy music and respond to it by listening, bouncing or singing along?__________
Does your baby understand the command no?


What if my child has a hearing problem?

Hearing problems can be temporary or permanent. Ear infections or fluid or pressure changes in the middle ear from other causes can cause temporary hearing problems that go away with time or treatment. Most permanent hearing problems are present at birth, and may be hereditary (run in families) or may be caused by medical problems. In some cases, the cause of a hearing problem may be unknown.

If your child has permanent hearing loss, talk to your doctor about communication options. Several types of hearing devices are available for children. Your doctor may refer you to an audiologist (a doctor who specializes in hearing problems) to help you decide which hearing device is right for your child. Your doctor may also talk with you about other options to help your child communicate, such as lip-reading or sign language. Talk to your doctor about whether your child might also benefit from listening therapy or speech therapy.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

  • My child’s hearing problem seemed to happen after he/she had an ear infection. Will it go away?
  • My young child doesn’t react when I clap or say his/her name. Could he/she have a hearing problem?
  • Many people in my family have hearing problems. How soon should I have my child tested?
  • If my child is deaf, how can I communicate with him/her?
  • I’ve heard about cochlear implants. Can you tell me about them?
  • Should my child have a hearing aid?
  • Will my child ever learn to talk?