Childhood hearing loss, whether congenital or acquired, can be worrisome for parents. Connecticut Children’s otolaryngologists have the expertise to diagnose and manage childhood hearing disorders, and work closely with our pediatric audiologists to help educate parents and families about hearing loss, treatment options, and other therapies.

There are many causes of childhood hearing loss, from a simple inflammation of the middle ear to complex malformations of the inner ear. Genetic factors commonly play a role in childhood hearing impairment. Our physicians may recommend genetic testing at Connecticut Children’s to provide insight into the cause of your child’s hearing loss.

Three Basic Types of Hearing Loss

Although a child’s ears appear to be simple structures, they are, in fact, just a small part of a complex auditory system that gathers and interprets sound.

The auditory system is made up of passageways, vibrating structures, nerves and specialized areas of the brain that work together to detect a whisper or the barking of a dog.

The ear is made up of three parts: the outer ear, middle ear and inner ear. Each section includes several structures that are necessary in the process of converting sound waves into signals that go to the brain. Problems in any part of the ear can contribute to hearing loss.

Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound is not carried efficiently through the outer or middle ear to the cochlea (inner ear). It typically involves a reduction in sound level or the ability to hear faint sounds. Some conditions that may cause conductive hearing loss include chronic middle ear infections (otitis media), infections with fluid buildup (serous otitis media), perforated eardrum, impacted earwax, malformation of the ear or the presence of a foreign body.

Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is an abnormality to the inner ear or to the nerve pathways from the inner ear to the brain. This can be caused by genetics, disease, injury and noise exposure. This type of loss is typically permanent, but may be improved with the use of devices such as a hearing aid or a cochlear implant.

Mixed hearing loss is the term used to describe damage in the outer or middle ear and in the inner ear or auditory nerve. It is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.

Children with hearing loss benefit from early detection and intervention. Some hearing loss may be corrected with use of a hearing aids or surgery. Connecticut Children’s ENT physicians can provide diagnoses and will help determine what the best course of treatment is for your child.