Learn about the types of hearing loss in children and the signs of hearing impairment from the Department of Neonatal & Developmental Medicine, Singapore General Hospital (SGH).
Hearing loss may be present at birth (congenital) or develops later. Congenital hearing loss could be inherited. It could also be due to factors present in utero or at time of birth, like infections, prematurity and exposure to certain medications.
Hearing loss can also develop later as a result of a disease, a condition or an injury. Conditions that can cause acquired hearing loss include ear infection, brain infection, injury, exposure to noise and certain medications.
Hearing impairment is a hidden disability. Your child may have a hearing problem if he or she does not consistently respond to sounds or when spoken to, or does not follow instructions. He or she may also have speech or language delay, unclear speech, poor attention, problems learning or interacting with other people.
Hearing loss that is inherited may be present at birth or appears later in life.
Types of hearing loss
Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound is not well conducted from the outer ear to the middle ear. Conductive hearing loss may be caused by ear infections, ‘glue ear’, impacted earwax and abnormal outer ear, ear canal or middle ear. This type of hearing loss may be medically or surgically corrected.
Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is a problem with the inner ear or nerve pathways. Sensorineural hearing loss may be due to certain diseases, medications, infections or certain inherited conditions.
Mixed hearing loss occurs when there is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.
How severe can hearing loss get?
The severity of hearing loss is defined by frequency thresholds i.e. the softest intensity of sound that can be heard. The degree of hearing loss is defined as slight, mild, moderate, moderately severe, severe and profound. Hearing loss may affect one or both ears or only certain frequencies. It can fluctuate or get progressively worse with time.
Is hearing screening important?
Hearing is critical for speech and language, as well as social, emotional, cognitive and academic development. The earlier a child loses his or her hearing, the more serious the hearing loss affects the child’s development. However, the earlier the problem is identified and treated, the less serious the impact on the child. Hence, it is important your child goes for newborn hearing screening or have his or her hearing tested whenever you are concerned, as hearing loss can occur at any time.