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Hearing loss affects 3 in 1000 babies. Hearing loss can be congenital, familial/genetic, or acquired.  95% of infants with hearing loss are born to parents with normal hearing. Over 50% of infants with hearing loss have no known risk factors for hearing loss.

Acquired hearing loss may occur at any age.  Leading causes include damaging noise levels, infections, especially meningitis and otitis media, trauma to the central nervous system, and ototoxic drugs.

Adequate hearing is essential for developing spoken language.  Children with significant hearing loss are at risk for delay in speech, language and communication development.  They also are at risk for difficulties in social interactions, school performance and emotional development.

Nationally, the average age for identification of hearing loss in children not screened at birth is 18-24 months.  Most children with congenital hearing loss have hearing impairment at birth, although some do not become evident until later. Optimal age for identification of congenital hearing loss, or hearing loss acquired in infancy, is as early as possible, but ideally before 6 months of age.*

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*AAP Policy Statement (2003).  Hearing assessment in infants and children:  Recommendations beyond neonatal screening. Cunningham M, Cox EO, et al.  Pediatrics. 111(2):436-440.

See also:  AAP Clinical Report. (Oct 2009)Hearing Assessment in Infants and Children: Recommendations Beyond Neonatal Screening.  Harlor AD, Bower C.  The committee on practice and ambulatory medicine, The section on otolaryngology – head and neck surgery. . Pediatrics. 124(4):1252-1263.

Hearing Section:

Hearing Section: updated 7/21/15
Edited by Katherine TeKolste, MD, FAAP
Developmental Pediatrician; MHLN Medical Consultant
Reveiwed by Lisa Mancl, Audiologist

Center on Human Development and Disability, University of Washington