Hearing Loss in Children

Father and son who have has UCM cochlear implants

It can be challenging as a parent if your child as hearing loss, and it can be even more daunting that pediatric hearing loss can lead to developmental delays in language, speech and social skills. That is why selecting a pediatric hospital you can trust is a critical first step to treating your child’s hearing loss.

The University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital provides comprehensive and personalized care for children with hearing loss. Our pediatric hearing loss team provides a family-centered approach in a warm and welcoming environment. We have the skill and experience to treat everything from common ear infections to complex conditions.

We are also very proud of the Thirty Million Words Center. Led by Dr. Dana Suskind and Dr. John List, the center is at the nexus of hearing health, speech, economics and social science. The principle goal of the center is to study the role that parents and caregivers play in enhancing children’s foundational brain development.

Types of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is more common than parents likely know, and understanding the types and causes of hearing loss in their child is the first step to improving their health.

Conductive hearing loss results from a blockage in the ear that impacts sound conduction. This can be due to a buildup of earwax, fluid in the middle ear, a growth of tissue (cholesteatoma) or problems with the small hearing bones (ossicles). Depending on the types and severity of conductive hearing loss, treatment ranges from taking antibiotics to surgical intervention. 

Sensorineural hearing loss is often considered permanent hearing loss because of nerve or inner ear damage. This can occur after continued exposure to loud noises, illness, ear trauma and more. Sensorineural hearing loss is typically addressed with hearing aids, but depending on the severity of your child's hearing loss, may be treated surgically with a cochlear implant or other implantable devices.

Mixed hearing loss occurs when your child has hearing issues resulting from both conductive and sensorineural causes. With mixed hearing loss, there is typically a combination of issues that impact the outer, middle and/or inner ears. 

Risks and Signs of Childhood Hearing Loss

Not every child with hearing loss was at risk, but it is still important to know what can predispose your child to having hearing loss before or after birth. Common risk factors include:

  • Family history of hearing loss (including genetic conditions)
  • Neurodegenerative disorders, such as Hunter syndrome and Friedreich ataxia
  • Syndromes related to hearing loss, such as neurofibromatosis and Ushers syndrome
  • In-womb infections
  • Contracting a disease that can impact hearing loss, including meningitis, chickenpox and rubella
  • Severe head trauma

It can be difficult to identify if your child has hearing loss, but some common signs of hearing loss include:

  • Doesn’t startle at loud noises
  • Doesn’t respond when his or her name is called
  • Is not progressing with speech or language
  • Difficulty following conversations and having issues responding or articulating
  • Is having issues following/understanding lessons at school
  • Turns up the volume of the TV, tablet, cellphone or other digital devices to extremely high levels
  • Suffers from reoccurring earaches and ear pain

Contact your physician if you are worried that your child may be at risk for hearing loss and are experiencing one or more of the above symptoms.

Telemedicine at Comer Children's

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Pediatric Hearing Loss