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.
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.
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.
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.