May 1, 2018

Why Hearing Screenings are Important for Children

General Health

Although hearing loss is common in older adults, it can occur at any age—even in babies and children. When children have undiagnosed hearing loss, it can affect their ability to learn to speak, understand language, thrive in a classroom, and interact with others.

Why are hearing screenings important for children?

Children begin learning how to speak and understand language within the first six months of their lives. And, the first three years of a child’s life is the most critical time for speech and language development.

When children who have hearing loss are screened and diagnosed early, they can begin receiving treatment to improve their hearing or services that can help them learn to communicate. These early interventions can prevent delays in speech, language, cognitive, and social development.

What are the signs of hearing loss in babies and children?

Most newborns in the United States receive hearing screenings in the hospital or in the weeks after birth. Older children may receive hearing screenings at school. However, hearing loss can develop at any time during childhood, so it is important to watch for signs of hearing loss — even if your child already passed a hearing screening.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, signs of hearing loss in babies include:

  • Not reacting to loud noises
  • Doesn’t turn his or her head to the source of a sound after 6 months of age
  • Doesn’t say any words by age 1
  • Doesn’t respond to his or her name
  • Appears to hear some sounds, but not others

Signs of hearing loss in children include:

  • Delayed speech
  • Unclear speech
  • Trouble following verbal directions
  • Often saying “Huh?”, “What?,” or asking people to repeat what they’ve said
  • Listens to television or video games at a high volume
  • Speaking loudly

What should I do if I think my child has hearing loss?

If you think your child may have hearing loss, you should ask your child’s healthcare provider to give your child a hearing screening right away. Your child may need to see an otolaryngologist, a type of doctor who specializes in treating conditions of the ears, nose, and throat, or an audiologist, a healthcare professional who specializes in hearing.

If your child has hearing loss, your child’s healthcare provider may perform further hearing tests or an examination to diagnose the cause. Your child’s healthcare provider will work closely with you to develop a plan that may include providing treatment or connecting your child with appropriate services.

Hearing screenings are an important tool that can identify hearing loss in children and prevent problems with communication, learning, and development. If you are concerned about your child’s hearing, ask your child’s healthcare provider for a hearing screening today.