According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 14.9% of children 6-19 years of age experience some degree of hearing loss in one or both ears. Meanwhile, the National Institute for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders reports that approximately three out of every 1000 children in the United States are born with detectable hearing loss

Most notably, however, is the fact that 90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents.

That's a significant problem. Communication plays a pivotal role in early childhood development. If a child is unable to communicate — or at least, unable to communicate in the same way as their peers — then their development will very likely be stunted. 

The good news is that this is avoidable. You just need to train yourself to recognize the warning signs of hearing loss in your child. With that knowledge and regular screenings, you'll be set up to help your child cope with the challenges of hearing impairment — and to help yourself be a better parent in light of those challenges. 

They Haven't Hit Any of the Developmental Milestones

First and foremost, we'd advise you to familiarize yourself with the major developmental milestones around hearing & understanding and speech & language. Do note that delayed development in either of these areas doesn't necessarily indicate the presence of hearing loss. However, hearing loss is very frequently accompanied by developmental delays. 

We've listed the relevant milestones below, courtesy of Stanford Children's Health.

Birth to three months
  • Startled by loud sounds and soothed by soft sounds
  • Turns head towards you when you speak
  • Wakes up to loud voices/noises
  • Smiles in response to certain voices
  • Able to recognize parent/caregiver's voice
Four to six months
  • Turns towards new sounds
  • Understands tonal changes
  • Imitates own voice
  • Enjoys toys like rattles
  • Starts repeating sounds
7-12 months
  • Recognizes own name and sounds such as a phone ringing or someone's voice
  • Recognizes and knows words for common objects
  • Begins responding to requests
  • Imitates simple sounds and words
  • Babbles
As you've likely noticed, the common thread here involves whether or not your child reacts to auditory stimuli. Speech delays are still relevant but less so than signs of hearing difficulties, as the latter tends to contribute heavily to the former. We'll also advise that when in doubt, get your child's hearing tested. 

They're Struggling in School

When speaking to your child's teacher, what does that teacher have to say? Is the child a good student, or are they unfocused, inattentive, and easily frustrated? Do they spend most of their time daydreaming and seem to have trouble following directions or engaging in conversation? 

These could easily be signs and symptoms of multiple development issues like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder(ADHD). However, they could just as easily indicate that your child is struggling with hearing impairment— especially if they have a history of ear infections and the like. 

They Never Seem to Be Paying Attention

Is your child constantly listening to abnormally loud music? Do they crank the TV up to unreasonable levels when they're watching something? Do you constantly have to repeat yourself or raise your voice just to get them to listen? 

They probably aren't misbehaving. Nor are they intentionally ignoring you. Instead, it's far likelier that they may have undiagnosed hearing loss. 

Pay particularly close attention to your child's body language when speaking to family members or friends. Do they look at people intently while conversing? Do they tend to talk loudly when it's not necessary? 

Again, these are all potential signs of hearing loss and strong indicators that it's time to take your child to the doctor for a hearing test.

Listen and Learn

Diagnosing hearing loss in an adult is very different from diagnosing it in a child, especially one who's younger or who has lived with it their entire life. Oftentimes, they might lack the language to explain what's wrong or even the understanding that anything is unusual. That's why it falls to you as a parent to recognize the signs that they're struggling.

And if you see any of those signs, to get them tested and treated.