Hearing Loss in Children: Early Signs to Look Out For

H&D  Blog Hero Image Template (9)Hearing loss in children can happen for many reasons, and can be either temporary or permanent. Hearing issues can impact your child’s learning, concentration and communication. If you (or your child) are concerned about their hearing, it’s definitely worth exploring properly!

As a parent or caregiver, you are the most likely person to notice if your child is experiencing difficulty hearing. So, we recommend that you check out the symptoms of hearing loss and when to see a hearing specialist, just in case.

In this article, we've shared some of our expert insights on hearing loss in children, and the signs to watch out for.

The main causes of hearing loss in children:

Middle ear inflammation (otitis media)

Middle ear inflammation (otitis media) is the most common reason for temporary hearing loss in children. Inflammation can be caused by an ear infection or fluid buildup in the middle ear space. Thankfully in most cases, it's treatable!  Be sure to talk with your physician about treatment options as they can vary depending on frequency and severity of the cause.

If otitis media is left untreated, or becomes chronic for your child, the issue can worsen and cause permanent damage to the eardrum. If you think your child has a blocked or infected ear, book an appointment with your GP, paediatrician or hearing doctor as soon as possible.

Swimmer’s ear (otitis externa)

Swimmer’s ear is a common bacterial infection that often happens if kids are in water for an extended period of time (creates a moist environment in the ear canal for bacteria to grow). It can cause the outer ear canal to swell shut, resulting in temporary hearing loss. Swimmer’s ear is also treatable, so have a chat with your physician if you're concerned about your child having swimmer's ear.

Wax build-up

Excessive wax in the ear canal can act like an ear plug and temporarily block sound. If your child has wax buildup, don’t use a cotton bud! You could accidentally push the wax further into the ear. Talk to a professional if you think you're child may have their ear canal blocked with wax.

Acquired hearing loss from serious illnesses or injuries

Some head injuries or illnesses can (very rarely!) cause temporary or permanent hearing loss in children.

Foreign objects lodged in the ear canal

Your child wouldn’t be the first or last to get a bead or a small toy stuck in their ear! Make sure to get items removed from your child’s ear by a professional with the appropriate tools.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL)

Does your child seem a little hard of hearing after a fireworks night? While noise-induced hearing loss is more common in adults, some studies have suggested that over 12% of children between 6-19 years old occasionally experience temporary hearing loss caused by loud noise. If you're concerned about a change in your child's hearing, schedule a hearing evaluation with an audiologist.

Permanent congenital (from birth) hearing loss

In New Zealand, every newborn baby is screened for hearing loss, but if you are noticing hearing loss symptoms or your baby is not developing normal speech patterns over time, we recommend having a chat to your doctor or hearing specialist.

How to spot signs of hearing loss or poor hearing in children

The common hearing loss signs to look out for in children include:

  • Not responding when spoken to or called, especially when they aren’t looking at you
  • Complaints of a ringing sound in their ears (this could be a sign of tinnitus)
  • Talking too loudly
  • Watching TV or listening to music at very high volumes
  • Pronouncing words incorrectly
  • Inattentiveness
  • Not reacting to intense, loud sounds
  • Saying ‘what?’ frequently or needing you to repeat sentences several times
  • Getting startled when you walk into a room, even though they should have heard you coming

Can hearing loss in children get better?

Keep in mind that most hearing loss issues for children are only temporary! Many childhood ear issues, such as middle ear inflammation and blockage, can be treated by a doctor.

If permanent hearing loss is diagnosed early, you can make use of resources and equipment to help manage treatment and help your child communicate and learn effectively as they grow up.

What to do if you think your child might be experiencing hearing loss

We recommend you talk to your GP or paediatrician if you are concerned about your child’s hearing. They might be able to resolve the issue, or they can refer you to an audiologist or ear nose and throat doctor.

Most of our clinics are equipped to see children over 5 years old, so you can book a full consultation at New Zealand Hearing. Our friendly audiologists will make your child feel safe and comfortable as we take them through some hearing, tympanometry (middle ear function assessments) and speech discrimination tests.

Enjoy peace of mind for you and your child; book a hearing appointment today.

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And give yourself a pat on the back for being proactive

Great news - a FREE basic hearing check is available to everyone aged 18 and over.