Childhood Hearing Loss

Approximately three infants out of 1000 are born with hearing loss each year. If hearing loss is not identified and treated early, it can impede speech, language and cognitive development. The State of Illinois mandates that all infants receive a hearing screening prior to discharge from the birth hospital.

The Joint Committee on Infant Hearing (2007) recommends that the initial hearing screening be completed by one month of age; confirmation of hearing loss by three months of age; fitting of amplification by six months of age.

Risk Factors for Hearing Loss

The following are common risk factors for hearing loss:

  • Caregiver concern regarding hearing, speech, language or developmental delay
  • Family history of permanent childhood hearing loss
  • Neonatal intensive care (NICU) for more than five days
  • In utero infections, such as CMV, herpes, rubella, syphilis and toxoplasmosis
  • Craniofacial anomalies, including those that involve the pinna, ear canal, ear tags, ear pits and temporal bone anomalies
  • Syndromes associated with hearing loss or progressive or late-onset hearing loss, such as neurofibromatosis, osteopetrosis and Usher syndrome; other frequently identified syndromes include Waardenburg, Alport, Pendred and Jervell and Lange-Nielson
  • Neurodegenerative disorders, such as Hunter syndrome, or sensory motor neuropathies, such as Friedreich ataxia and Charcot-Marie-Tooth syndrome
  • Culture-positive postnatal infections associated with sensorineural hearing loss, including confirmed bacterial and viral (especially herpes viruses and varicella) meningitis.

For a complete list of risk factors, visit the 2007 Positions Statement by the Joint Commission on Infant Hearing.

Hearing Evaluations

We recommend hearing evaluations for children who:

  • Do not startle to loud sounds
  • Constantly ask people to repeat themselves
  • Have trouble paying attention and seem distracted
  • Have difficulty hearing on the phone
  • Increase the volume on their TVs or iPods
  • Are not doing well in school
  • Have missed or failed a school hearing test
  • Have a speech and language delay
  • Have had chemotherapy
  • Have tested positive after birth for herpes, varicella or meningitis
  • Have had a head trauma, especially a skull or temporal bone fracture that requires hospitalization

No child is too young to receive a hearing test. The specific testing techniques that are used depend on the child’s age, developmental level and cooperation.