Hearing issues in children

There are many different forms of hearing impairments; in some cases, they can also be caused by physiology. Forms of hearing impairments which occur most often are ...

Conduction deafness

If the sound transmission through the eardrum and auditory ossicular chain is disrupted by obstacles, chronic inflammation of the middle ear or other illnesses, sound conduction is negatively affected as well. Sound transfer to the inner ear is disabled and the volume needs to be louder to be heard. Surgery can often help but hearing systems can balance hearing impairments as well.

Sensorineural hearing loss

This type of hearing loss occurs when a series of nerves (sensory hair cells) is destroyed. This can be due to a number of reasons (noise exposure, knocks, illness, genetic factors, and medication). In case of missing sensory hair cells in the cochlea, the acoustic noise cannot be transported through the acoustic nerve to the brain. Sometimes, however, the hearing loss is due to issues with the acoustic nerve. In this case, the sound cannot be transferred either.

Physiological reasons for hearing impairment

Infections during pregnancy (e.g. measles), complications during birth (anoxia, preterm birth), genetic factors, inflammation of the middle ear, infections (meningitis, measles, mumps), very loud sounds (fireworks), trauma (head injuries), adverse effects of medication. Often it is very hard to name the exact reason.

Reasons for hearing impairments in children in Germany (Prevalence 1.2:1000)

Reasons for hearing impairments

Hearing loss in children

Fewer than approximately 15 of 1000 newborns have a hearing issue, although, hearing loss can also occur later on because of issues such as inflammation. It is important to recognize hearing deficits as early as possible. This is of great importance since the areas of the brain responsible for hearing, are not yet fully developed. The development (e.g. acquisition of language) only takes place during the first years of life. These learning processes cannot develop to their full extent later on in life.


Age Hearing Talking
by 3rd month Reacts to sounds and noises without visual contact  
by 6th month Is startled by a sudden noise and reacts to voices, turns head towards sound Babbles, laughs loudly
by 9th month Listens to own voice Tries out different pitches of voices and tones
by 12th month Responds to quiet sounds: ticking of alarm clock, rustling, reacts to own name Imitation of syllables. Intention to get attention through baby talk
by 18th month Reacts when called from a distance of about 1 m Speaks several words. Can name relatives and items. Can express simple wishes. Imitates animals.
by 24th month Responds when name is called quietly from a distance of about 4-6 m Sentences of two words (e.g. love daddy)
3-5 years Child can express himself/herself and his/her wishes and feelings. Information can be exchanged and questions can be asked