How Is Hearing Loss Diagnosed in Infants?

A hearing screening can be an important indicator of deafness or hearing loss in a child. The earlier that deafness or hearing loss is identified, the better the chances a child will learn spoken or signed language.

Signs of hearing loss in infants vary by age. For example:

  • A newborn baby with hearing loss may not startle when a loud noise sounds nearby.
  • Older infants, who should be reacting to familiar voices, may not respond when someone speaks to them.
  • Children should be using single words by 15 months, and simple two-word sentences by age two. If they do not reach these milestones, hearing loss may be the cause.

It has been found that identifying young children with hearing loss by clinical history and observation is not very sensitive; this is true even in cases of severe hearing loss. This has led to the implementation of newborn hearing screening nationwide in an effort to identify babies affected by hearing loss early. Additionally, if a parent expresses any concern about their child’s hearing or language development, a hearing test should be considered as part of the evaluation. Even in school aged children, it may be difficult to identify hearing loss by history or observation. Inattention and falling behind in class work may be the result of a hearing loss problem. Many schools and some pediatricians routinely screen children’s hearing at least once in grade school. Bright Futures (an organization that produces childhood screening guidelines) has recommended routine screening as specific ages but it has not been fully implemented.

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