Deafness in Babies: Everything You Need to Know

Deafness in babies can have developmental consequences if a doctor doesn't diagnose it early on. Learn more in this article.
Deafness in Babies: Everything You Need to Know

Last update: 09 May, 2021

Deafness is a hearing deficit. Sometimes, it affects people from birth and other times it starts affecting people progressively over time. If a professional doesn’t diagnose deafness in babies in time, it can lead to problems with their development. We’ll tell you everything you need to know about this condition below.

What is deafness?

Deafness is the common name for hearing impairment. It means that people who are deaf have difficulty hearing. It’s also known as hearing loss. This can occur in varying degrees. For example, it may be possible to hear most things, only certain sounds, or you may not be able to hear anything at all. It can also affect only one ear or both.

In addition, deafness can start at birth or develop over time. When it comes to deafness in babies, the most common causes are family history, the mother taking certain medications during pregnancy, the mother having an intrauterine infection, or the baby being premature.

Deafness in Babies: Everything You Need to Know

The most common causes of deafness during development are: otitis (ear infection), trauma to the eardrum or some infections, like meningitis. 

Why is it important to diagnose deafness in babies early?

Hearing plays a very important role in the correct development of language and communication. If a baby is born with hearing loss, and a professional doesn’t diagnose it early, it can have serious consequences for their development. For example, it can affect language learning, communication, and emotional and affective development. 

If a doctor doesn’t diagnose your baby at birth, there are certain signs that you can look for in your child that should tell you something is wrong with their hearing. These signs differ depending on the baby’s age. Some of them are:

  • 6 months: the baby isn’t making sounds or babbling.
  • 15 months: the baby doesn’t recognize or react to their name.
  • 2 years: the toddler doesn’t imitate words.
  • 3 years: the toddler doesn’t say any words or phrases.

How do professionals diagnose deafness in babies?

In some countries, the doctor will do some hearing tests before the newborn baby even leaves the hospital. Generally, they’ll do this after the first 24 hours of life. If they don’t do these tests at the hospital right away, they’ll ask the parents to bring the baby in within a few days to do it.

There are two different tests that can diagnose deafness in babies. Both are totally harmless and painless. The two tests are the oto-acoustic emission test and the auditory potentials test. For both tests, they’ll stimulate the ear. With the oto-acoustic emissions test, they’ll collect the cochlea’s response to stimulation. As for the potentials test, they’ll collect the signals that the brain emits.

Deafness in Babies: Everything You Need to Know
Sometimes, even if the tests say the child is deaf, the child won’t actually end up being deaf. Other times, however, the tests will come back normal, but the child may eventually develop hearing loss. Therefore, even if a doctor does the screening, you should still be on the lookout for signs that indicate your child may not be hearing well. 

Conclusion

Your baby will usually be screened for deafness at birth. However, since this is such an important matter in terms of child development, you should continue to check their hearing. Your child’s pediatrician will also check their hearing at their annual check-ups. If you notice any signs of hearing issues, you should see a specialist right away.

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