A Beginner’s Guide To Congenital Hearing Loss

A Beginner’s Guide To Congenital Hearing Loss

Just imagine how difficult it would be to learn that your child has congenital hearing loss, or hearing loss present at birth. You know that as your child grows up, they are going to be faced with many hurdles in their development, primarily with their speech and language skills.

In the past, hearing loss in children wasn’t detected until the little one was about two years old because parents would become alarmed when their child hasn’t begun talking yet.

Checking Hearing

Today, we are going to give you important information about congenital deafness, so you’ll be able to recognize the signs way before your little one turns 2 years old.

What Is Congenital Hearing Loss?

Did you know approximately 1 in 1,000 newborns are born with hearing loss in some degree, or developed it shortly after birth? If the hearing loss was acquired after birth, it may have been a result of an illness or injury – but we’ll talk more about that later.

For children who were born with congenital deafness (about 50% of patients), there are a few genetic factors that are passed down from one or both parents.

  • Syndromic Hearing Loss affects about 30% of children and is caused by conditions or syndromes that are also connected to hearing loss. An example of syndromic hearing loss Down Syndrome. It’s important to note that although there are over 400 types of known syndromes, each syndrome occurs rarely
  • Non-Syndromic Hearing Loss affects the remaining 70% of children. Unlike with syndromic hearing loss, these children do not have any other conditions that list hearing loss as a possible side effect. There are more than 100 genes that have been identified that are directly linked with non-syndromic hearing loss

Children who have genetic congenital deafness may experience a worsening of the condition, or it could stay stable as they get older.

Other than genetics, 25% of children are diagnosed with hearing loss present at birth due to non-genetic causes. These causes include:

  • The mother may have an infection like cytomegalovirus (CMV) during pregnancy
  • Premature birth and/or low birth weight
  • Severe jaundice at birth
  • Some medications given to infants and toddlers to treat serious infections

Of the remaining 25% of children, the cause of their hearing loss is unknown, and their deafness is labeled because of idiopathic causes.

What Are The Causes Of Acquired Hearing Loss?

Much like hearing loss in adults, children deafness and hearing loss can happen over time. There are various causes for this type of hearing loss, which include:

  • Perforated eardrum
  • Progressive diseases like Otosclerosis or Meniere’s Diseases
  • Infections such as: measles, meningitis, mumps or whooping cough
  • Given ototoxic medications
  • Sustained a serious head injury
  • Being exposed to loud noises which causes noise-induced hearing loss
  • Untreated ear infections
  • Exposure to secondhand smoke

What Are The Symptoms Of Congenital Hearing Loss?

After giving birth, many hospitals will perform hearing tests shortly after the baby has been delivered. These tests allow for early intervention if the newborn shows signs of hearing loss. If your child wasn’t tested, you should set up an appointment for an infant screening right away.

Baby Hearing Test

Even in between screenings, you should pay attention to how your child behaves and reacts to sound. Your baby should:

Birth To 4 Months

  • Stir or awaken at a loud sound
  • Get startled at a loud sound
  • Become calm at the sound of a familiar voice
  • Respond to your voice with either smiles, giggles, or coos

4 To 9 Months

  • Turn eyes toward a familiar sound
  • Smile when you talk to them
  • Recognize toys that makes sounds/rattles
  • Have different cries for different needs
  • Makes typical babbling sounds
  • Understand simple gesture/word combinations like “bye-bye” and waving

9 To 15 Months

  • Make a lot of different “babble” sounds
  • Responds when you say their name
  • Responds to a change in your voice
  • Say simple words like “ma-ma” or “da-da”
  • Try to repeat what sounds you make
  • Understand simple questions
  • Verbalize when they want/need attention

15 To 24 Months 

  • Identify objects when named
  • Listens to music, stories, and rhymes
  • Understand simple commands
  • Can say several words
  • Can identify and point to named body parts
  • Can name common objects
  • Create simple, short sentences by putting two or more words together

24 Months And Up

  • Have difficulty understanding things when being spoken to
  • Speaks differently than their peers
  • Doesn’t respond when their name is called
  • Sits close to the TV or turns the volume high
  • Has trouble in school that they didn’t have before
  • Has problems articulating and/or conveying thoughts
  • Watches others to imitate their actions
  • Complains about ear aches, pain, or noises
  • Switches ears frequently when on the phone – unable to hear well on the phone
  • Says “Huh?” or “What?” several times when being spoken to
  • Watches the speakers face when being spoken to – lip reading

What Kind Of Treatment Is Available For Congenital Hearing Loss?

Should your child be tested for congenital hearing loss or acquired hearing loss, don’t lose hope because there are some treatment options. Depending on how severe the hearing loss is, some children can be fitted with hearing aids or cochlear implants and work with a speech therapist.

Child Hearing Test

Of course, it’s always wise to see an audiologist who specializes in working with very young children. There are a few objective tests that your child can go through that are non-invasive and pain-free. Once the exam is over, the audiologist will chat with you and let you know the results of the testing and recommend possible treatment options.

Final Thoughts

Learning that your child has congenital deafness is a hard pill to swallow, but it’s important to know that it isn’t the end of the world. Regardless of how your child got this way, be it from genetics or not, there are treatment options that’ll help your little one re-gain some of their hearing.

We’d love it if you left us a comment and shared your experience with hearing loss, whether you were born with congenital deafness, you had a child with hearing loss present at birth, or if you know a friend who has had a cochlear implant. We’d love to hear from you!


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