Hearing loss in children not only impacts their ability to hear the many sounds of life, but it also creates a barrier to a child’s number-one job: learning.

Fortunately, many causes of hearing loss are treatable allowing a child to have the greatest potential for success in life. A pediatric audiologist can help in the testing and treatment of hearing loss in children. Though we are not pediatric audiologists, we regularly share our office with pediatric audiologists from SoundStart; an audiology practice that specializes in hearing loss in children. If you believe your child may have a hearing problem, contact SoundStart at (503) 567-2231. You can also learn more about SoundStart at soundstartpdx.org.


Categories of Hearing Loss That Affect Children

Unlike adults, hearing loss in children is most commonly conductive hearing loss, rather than sensorineural hearing loss. As with adults, hearing loss in children is measured in degrees: It can range from mild (one that causes difficulty hearing hushed tones such as a whisper) to moderate (where the child can still hear loud speech) to a complete loss of hearing.


Conductive Hearing Loss

The most common type of hearing loss in children is a conductive hearing loss associated with conditions in the external or middle ear that block the transmission of sound. In children these conditions are most typically otitis media, impacted cerumen, a perforated eardrum, or birth defects that alter the structure of the external auditory canal and/or middle-ear system. Most conductive hearing losses are medically treatable through antibiotics and/or surgery.


Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Sensorineural loss is the second most common type of hearing loss, resulting from damage to the cochlea (inner ear) and the auditory nerve. Sensorineural hearing loss in children is often congenital. Other causes of sensorineural hearing loss include ototoxic medications, premature birth, and illnesses. Sensorineural hearing loss is not medically treatable; however, in most cases, children can be helped with hearing aids or cochlear implants.


Symptoms of Hearing Loss in Children

Signs of possible hearing loss in children range from not startling at loud sounds to speech delay to academic difficulties, depending on the age of the child.


  • Not startling at loud noises
  • Unable to localize sound
  • Not showing normal speech development

Toddler and Older:

  • Speech and language delays
  • Academic difficulties/delays
  • Needing louder than “normal” volume to hear television
  • Needing multiple verbal repetitions
  • Stating that he/she is having difficulty hearing

If you believe your child has a hearing loss, please contact us to meet with one of our audiologists. Timely hearing testing, diagnosis, and treatment will provide the best course of action, ensuring the highest-quality lifetime experiences for your child.