Hearing loss can be an overwhelming experience, though it's even more challenging when the person experiencing hearing loss can't clearly articulate how they feel.

If you're a parent with a toddler, you know exactly how frustrating this is.

Even though 98 percent of newborns are screened for hearing loss, symptoms may develop over time that didn't exist during the first screening. 

In fact, about 1.7 of every 1,000 babies screened for hearing loss experience some level of hearing loss, though a study of children ages 3 to 17 shows that this percentage increases to 5 per 1,000 children.

Here are some key signs your toddler may be developing hearing loss, potential causes of hearing loss, and next steps.

Early Signs of Hearing Loss in Toddlers

Unfortunately, deducing that your toddler has hearing loss is often easier said than done, as hearing loss may be gradual. Therefore, if you clap directly behind them, they will probably still react if the hearing loss is gradual.

Instead, here are some signs your toddler may be losing their hearing.

Little to No Speech Effort

By 12 months, your toddler should be able to babble or make sounds like "Mama." If your toddler is older and can already respond to simple sentences, you may notice that they respond to sentences inappropriately, demonstrating that they misheard the sentence.

Poor Attention 

Most toddlers have very short attention spans. In fact, studies show that toddlers aged 16-19 months generally have an attention span of 2-3 minutes and 3-6 minutes by 20-24 months of age. By 36 months of age, they can maintain attention for 5-8 minutes.

However, if you notice that they don't meet these attention benchmarks when engaging with sound-related activities (toys with noise or speech) or become frustrated with background noise, it may be a sign they have hearing loss.

Fails to Follow Sound Source

By six months of age, a toddler should be able to turn in the direction of a sound. However, if they are unable to identify the source of a sound correctly, it might be a sign of hearing loss.

Common Causes of Hearing Loss

If you do suspect that your toddler has hearing loss, here are some of the top causes of gradual hearing loss. 

Otitis Media

One of the most common causes of hearing loss in toddlers is Otitis Media. In fact, toddlers are more prone to Otitis Media than any other age group. If your child has Otitis Media, you might notice fluid (ranging from a slight trickle to thick and infected) running from the middle ear. While it usually just leads to temporary hearing loss, it can become permanent if left untreated.

Meniere's Disease

Meniere's Disease can affect both children and adults and is typically accompanied by symptoms like fullness in the ear, tinnitus, and vertigo.

If your toddler has this disease, you might notice that they don't walk very well, and they may cry often or touch their ears.


Infections are also common causes of hearing loss in toddlers. Specifically, Measles, Mumps, and Meningitis can cause infections that can lead to permanent hearing loss, so be sure to watch your child for discomfort. The quicker you catch an infection, the less likely your toddler is to be affected.

Blunt Trauma

If your toddler experienced blunt trauma that damaged the inner ear, they might experience permanent hearing loss.

While hearing loss typically isn't a top priority directly after a head injury, it should be checked as prolonged hearing loss will cause the cells in the inner ear to die and lead to permanent deafness.

Preventing Hearing Loss

Every parent knows that keeping a toddler safe and healthy is no easy task. However, hearing loss is one of the most important things to check in your toddler. Therefore, be sure to monitor their progress and take them for regular hearing tests. 

If you have concerns about your toddler, you can always reach out to a Connect Hearing audiologist and we’d be happy to answer your questions.