Come again? How to prevent hearing loss in children

Approximately 32 million children worldwide have hearing loss, but a report from the World Health Organization indicates that up to 60% of hearing loss in children under the age of 15 years is preventable. “A child who struggles to hear may also struggle to learn to speak, underachieve at school and end up socially isolated,” Director of the WHO Department for Management of Non-communicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention Dr Etienne Krug said in a WHO statement. “But this doesn’t have to happen. We have a range of tools to help prevent, detect and treat childhood hearing loss.”

Causes of childhood hearing loss

·         Genetic factors

These account for 40% of hearing loss in children. Children born of consanguineous marriages or unions between two closely related individuals are more likely to develop hearing loss.

·         Birth conditions

Such as prematurity, low birth weight, lack of oxygen, neonatal jaundice.

·         Infections

For example rubella in the mother during pregnancy, or meningitis, mumps and measles in childhood.

·         Ear diseases

Including  excess ear wax caused by fluid buildup on the inner ear (fortunately you can order medical supplies online like ear wax removal drops or an ear wax removal syringe at Discount Medical Supplies).

·         Noise

Loud sounds from smartphones, MP3 players, and other personal audio devices used at loud volume for prolonged periods, and high intensity sounds like fireworks.

·         Ototoxic medicines

For instance those used in the treatment of neonatal infections, malaria, drug-resistant tuberculosis and cancers.


Measles, mumps, rubella meningitis and ear infections can be prevented with immunization and good hygiene practices. Improved maternal and child health practices could help to prevent birth complications. And so on and so forth, but in any and all cases early detection is of the utmost importance to keep the damage at a minimum.

Hearing loss grades

·         Slight/mild

Children have difficulty hearing and understanding soft speech, speech from a distance, or speech against a background of noise.

·         Moderate

Children have trouble hearing regular speech even at close range.

·         Severe

Children may only hear very loud speech or sounds, like a fire truck siren or a door slamming. They can’t hear most conversational speech.

·         Profound

Children may perceive loud sounds as vibrations.


Several factors influence the impact of hearing loss on an individual (degree of hearing loss, environment), of which the most important are age of onset and age of identification and intervention. Hearing loss hits the hardest when it develops soon after birth because that’s the optimal period for the development of speech and language. Furthermore, the earlier a child is identified as experiencing hearing loss – and the sooner he or she receives support interventions – the better chance they have to learn to communicate and reduce developmental and social delays. Hearing screening programs can detect hearing loss as early as a few days after birth in children with congenital hearing loss. Research indicates that children born deaf or who develop hearing loss very early and who are administered proper support within 6 months of age are at the same level of language development as their hearing peers by age 5. Regular pre-school and school-based hearing screening can identify hearing loss soon after its onset in children who develop it at a later age, and decrease its negative effects.

Actions to prevent and manage hearing loss in children

Strengthening immunization programs, maternal and child health programs, and organizations of people with hearing loss, parents and family support groups.

·         Including vaccines in the national immunization programs and make sure their coverage is widespread.

·         Improving maternal and neonatal care with better nutrition, awareness of hygienic practices, promotion of safe birth, and swift management of neonatal infections and jaundice.

·         Promoting the formation of support groups for people with hearing loss and their families.

Implementing newborn and infant hearing screening, and school-based hearing screenings.

·         Enforcing early intervention programs that focus on appropriate interventions, preferably before six months of age; family support, including parent guidance and counseling; hearing rehabilitation through hearing aids and cochlear implants; and suitable therapy and communication alternatives.

·         Integrating hearing screening into school health programs and developing linkages for provision of suitable medical, surgical and rehabilitative care.

Educating primary care providers and health staff on the importance of ear diseases and care.

·         Establishing training programs in primary ear and hearing care for primary level health providers such as otologists, audiology professionals, nurses, therapists and teachers to provide the required care and services.

·         Setting up professional training programs to develop human resources in the field of hearing health and education for people with hearing loss.

Making hearing devices such as hearing aids and cochlear implants accessible.

·         Developing initiatives for affordable fitting and maintenance of hearing devices.

·         Ensuring access to communication through all available means.

Regulating and monitoring the use of ototoxic medicines to reduce their risk, as well the levels of noise in the environment

·         Developing and implementing laws to restrict the sale and use of ototoxic medicines; and sensitizing healthcare providers regarding hearing conservation during their use.

·         Developing and implementing regulation regarding environmental noise at recreational venues and other locales; and implementing standards for listening safely to personal audio devices.

Increasing public awareness

·         Establishing communal awareness programs to promote ear and hearing care, especially about the dangers of loud sounds, by educating children about the risks associated with damaging levels of sound from personal audio devices and noisy entertainment venues.

·         Developing and implementing awareness programs targeting young children to promote safe listening habits.

·         Highlighting and sharing success stories from people with hearing loss can effectively reduce stigma associated with hearing loss, hearing devices and alternate communication methods.

·         Engaging role models to increase awareness about hearing loss prevention and care.


Related: The facts surrounding fireworks and loss of hearing