The National Institutes of Health estimates that for every 1,000 babies born in the United States, 2-3 have some level of hearing loss in one or both ears. Although your child got an all-clear at the hospital, and passed their last hearing test, too, you’ve noticed some changes that have you worried.
Hearing loss can be present at birth (i.e., congenital), or develop over time (i.e., acquired). Most cases of acquired hearing loss occur as a result of an ear infection. About 5 of 6 kids have at least one ear infection before they’re 3 years old.
While most ear infections clear up on their own or with antibiotics and have no lasting effects, Dr. Vandana Kumra, an expert pediatric ENT specialist in New York City, recommends staying alert to the signs of hearing loss in your kids. Even a blow to the head, exposure to loud noise, or a case of the mumps or measles could negatively affect your child’s hearing.
Here she shares eight signs that your child may be having trouble hearing or have another ear-related problem that you should have evaluated at ENT New York:
Upping the volume
If your teen is blasting the stereo, it might go beyond making a statement about a hot new band. Children who have trouble hearing turn up stereos, TVs, and the volume on their other electronics and devices, too.
If your child stares at you or other people when they speak, or needs you to repeat instructions, they may not be catching all of your words. Saying “what?” frequently could also indicate that their hearing is impaired.
Talking loudly or unclearly
If your child uses an “outside” voice inside, and can’t seem to regulate their volume, it could indicate a problem with their hearing. Also note if your child’s speech sounds slurred or unclear, as if they can’t really hear themselves when speaking.
Only responding when they see you
You have to physically be present in a room to catch your child’s attention. Normally, kids should be able to hear you calling — even from another part of the house.
Having trouble in school
If a teacher complains that your child isn’t paying attention or participating in class, it could be a sign that they can’t hear what’s going on.
Not ‘playing well’
You’ve noticed that your child doesn’t like to play with other children anymore. Or, if they do try to play, they lose interest and wander off by themselves.
Ear pulling and scratching
Young children and babies may tug on their ears if they have an ear infection or are having trouble hearing.
Being moody or listless
Not being able to hear what’s going on around them can be distressing and tiring. Watch for mood changes and unexplained fatigue.
If your child has any signs of hearing loss or an ear infection, an evaluation by an expert pediatric ENT gets you the answers you need. Dr. Kumra thoroughly evaluates the structure of your child’s ear for any defects or abnormalities that may be impairing hearing. She also looks for signs of infection and other possible causes of hearing loss, such as earwax buildup.
She administers painless, easy hearing tests for children of all ages. Once her evaluation is complete, she designs a treatment strategy for your child. This could be as simple as removing excess earwax or draining fluids from the middle ear, to prescribing antibiotics to clear a bacterial infection.
If your child does have hearing loss, she may prescribe hearing aids, which help your child hear better and develop normal speech. Even babies as young as 1 month old can benefit from hearing aids. In cases of more severe hearing loss, Dr. Kumra may recommend cochlear implants.
Your child’s hearing affects all aspects of their well-being. To have your child evaluated for hearing loss, contact our kid-friendly office staff or use our easy, time-saving online form.