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There are two main types of hearing loss: nerve hearing loss and conductive hearing loss. Children who have nerve hearing loss are usually born with the condition, which is also called sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL). SNHL occurs when there are problems of the inner ear that cause a hearing problem. Conductive hearing loss occurs when there is a problem conducting sound waves anywhere along the route through the ear canal, tympanic membrane (eardrum), middle ear or one of the three hearing bones (ossicles).
Causes of SNHL in children include:
Possible causes of conductive hearing loss include (in order from the most common to the least common):
Symptoms of any of the above types of hearing loss include trouble hearing or non-responsiveness to sound.
All newborns should receive a newborn hearing screen—also called an otoacoustic emissions test—before leaving the hospital at birth. If this test comes back abnormal, your child must be re-tested, as there is a chance your child may have nerve hearing loss. Approximately 1 in 1,000 children are born with profound deafness.
Testing is a painless, noninvasive experience for children, incorporating games and activities designed to evaluate children on their terms. Results from your child’s evaluation are often shared with you the same day.
Doctors at Riley at IU Health can identify the type and severity of a child’s hearing loss and make recommendations for amplification, communication evaluations and speech therapy. If necessary, they will coordinate consultations with ear, nose and throat specialists. If a diagnostic evaluation shows that your child has a hearing loss that is appropriate for hearing aids, your family will be referred to a hearing aid audiologist.
Additional testing used to diagnose hearing loss includes:
If your child is diagnosed with nerve hearing loss, his or her doctor will likely recommend a hearing aid. This is the first course of treatment for nerve hearing loss. Children referred for a hearing aid at Riley at IU Health will meet with a hearing aid audiologist. At that time, your child's care team will discuss amplification options and help your family select appropriate technology. Once the equipment arrives, your child will return for a hearing aid fitting and training to learn how to care for and use the hearing aids.
If the nerve hearing loss is profound and a hearing aid trial has been done, then your child may be considered for a cochlear implant.
Children with vestibular schwannoma often require surgery to remove the tumor. Depending on the size of the growth and the level of your child’s hearing loss, the surgeon may try to save the hearing or—if the tumor is too large—the tumor will be removed and the hearing will be lost.
If your child has conductive hearing loss, there could be several causes and each has a unique treatment option. Treatment options for each cause of conductive hearing loss include:
Find more information on pediatric hearing loss from these trusted organizations
Riley at IU Health offers a broad range of supportive services to make life better for families who choose us for their children's care.
This website from the Hearing Loss Association of America offers support and resources for parents of children with hearing loss.
This national organization provides guidance for families of children who have hearing loss.
The Ear, Nose & Throat Department at Riley at IU Health participates in a number of ongoing research studies and clinical trials for pediatric hearing loss. Investigators from the department engage in a variety of auditory neuroscience studies, including the creation of auditory tissue in a lab using stem cells. The department is also conducting clinical trials to study cochlear implant outcomes in children. Ask your child's doctor for more information about participation in research studies and clinical trials at Riley at IU Health.