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Ben Gillett

Principal Audiologist – Paediatric Lead

How to Spot a hearing loss in toddlers and children.

Posted on 2023-04-25 13:43:00 in General

In the majority of cases of childhood deafness, the cause is of a temporary nature and is due to a relatively common condition called ‘glue ear.’ However, if this hearing loss becomes more persistent or if there are other less common factors such as a permanent mild or moderate hearing loss or still rarer, a progressive loss, then this can impact on aspects of development like social skills, education and speech and language progress for the child affected.

Signs of Hearing Loss in Toddlers and Children

  • A change in the child’s behaviour, becoming withdrawn or frustrated, even if the hearing loss is temporary, it can affect the child’s ability to hear clearly and can easily be mistaken for them behaving in a naughty or stubborn manner.
  • A child that constantly says "what?" or asks for speech to be repeated.
  • They ignore instructions or appear to mishear or mispronounce words and don’t respond when initially called.
  • They get tired easily or complain about not being able to hear, sometimes this is exhibited with issues in terms of concentration or wanting the TV at louder levels than the rest of the family.
  • The child watches faces/lips intently and talks louder or even softer than expected.
  • The child doesn’t always follow instructions straightaway and/ or watches what others are doing before doing it themselves.
  • They can generally appear inattentive, or they seem to daydream frequently.
  • A child who makes little or no contribution to group or activities or discussions.
  • The child seems startled when people come into their line of vision as if they are noticing them for the first time.
  • They are behind with respect to communication skills and speech development compared with their peers.
  • Some toddlers and small babies with hearing issues exhibit these issues through pulling at their ears can be noted as having particularly red ears.
  • Some children with hearing losses have issues gaining the basics of reading and learning.
  • Children with hearing issues can exhibit issues around responding and/or hearing when there is more background noise present.

If you feel your child presents with many of the above signs it does not necessarily mean that the cause is rooted in a hearing loss. However, to exclude deafness as a reason, with respect to your child’s ongoing development, a hearing assessment should be requested to rule this out as a significant factor. Referrals can be obtained from health care professionals (e.g., GPs, Health visitors and school nurses,) should the need be identified.

More information is available through websites such as the National Deaf Childrens Society