Hearing loss in children requires treatment at an early stage to avoid putting at risk the maturation of the auditory pathway and thus the acquisition of speech understanding. In a model study, our Department of Otorhinolaryngology has demonstrated how important it is that hearing screening be carried out immediately after birth to diagnose and treat potential hearing loss in newborns. Health insurance covers the costs of this quick test. Neonatal hearing screening has been a standard service of German healthcare since 2012.
However, neonatal hearing screening is only a snapshot in time. Many children develop hearing loss during the first few years of their life, and this remains undiscovered for too long. The babbling stage in toddlers provides no evidence of functional hearing because even congenitally deaf children start babbling in the first year of life.
We therefore recommend that all parents closely observe their child’s hearing.
Possible symptoms of hearing loss in children:
- The child never gets startled at the sound of sudden loud noises.
- The child never tries to localise a sound source (e. g. no turning of the head towards a speaker).
- The child never gets distracted from playing – or only by very loud noises or if addressed directly.
- The child often touches or pulls at one or both ears – this can indicate either a feeling of pressure in the ear or an ear infection.
- The child’s babbling does not change or changes only little in the first year of life, and the child tries to get attention by shrill crying.
- The child does not react properly to noises or speech and does not recognise his or her own name at the age of one year.
- The child’s babbling does not develop into recognisable speech sounds or words in the second year of the child’s life.
- The child does not react properly at the age of one year to simple spoken requests if these cannot be anticipated by the context of meaning and circumstances, or if they are not supported by gestures.
- The child withdraws from social contact or exhibits increasingly aggressive reactions.
- The child displays conspicuous behaviour in a group by being restless, which can be interpreted as an attempt to gain information by visual means.
- The child often asks what is meant.
- The child always adjusts the volume control to the highest setting.