Your child may experience hearing loss when any part of his ear is not working the way it should, impacting the outer ear, middle ear, inner ear, hearing nerve and auditory system.
About 3 in every 1,000 babies are born in the U.S. with hearing loss.
What causes hearing loss in babies and kids?
There are many possible causes of childhood hearing loss. It can result from conditions like:
- Premature birth
- Pregnancy-related conditions, such as cytomegalovirus or rubella
- Postnatal infections, such as otitis media or meningitis
- Neurofibromatosis or osteopetrosis
- Down, CHARGE, Usher, Alport, Pendred, Jervell and Lange-Nielsen, Waardenburg, and Treacher Collins syndromes
- Craniofacial abnormalities
- Head trauma
- Neurodegenerative disorders
Hearing loss in children can have a profound impact on their development. The earlier the hearing loss begins, the bigger the effect it can have on a child later in life.
Children with hearing loss may find it more difficult to:
- Learn speech and language.
- Develop social relationships.
- Succeed in school.
The earlier hearing loss is identified and treated, the better the outcome. The Hearing Loss Program at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta can help identify, treat and support babies and children with hearing loss.
The Hearing Loss Program at Children’s is dedicated to meeting the needs of kids with hearing loss. Our pediatric otolaryngologists (ear, nose and throat doctors, or ENTs), audiologists (hearing specialists) and therapists offer a full range of audiology diagnostics and treatment services to create integrated, comprehensive care that’s unmatched at other children’s facilities for infants, children, teens and young adults.
We use a variety of methods to find the source of a child’s hearing problem and manage it properly. Additionally, we routinely assess children scheduled for speech-language evaluations to determine if hearing is an underlying factor in a child’s speech and language difficulties.
Our diagnostic services include:
- Behavioral hearing evaluation: A hearing assessment that’s adapted to your child’s age and development level (may begin as young as 6 months old).
- Auditory brainstem response (ABR): An auditory nerve function assessment used for infants, young children or those who can’t be assessed reliably with a behavioral evaluation.
- Newborn hearing screening: An assessment that’s part of national and state initiatives to identify potential hearing difficulties in newborns.
- Middle ear evaluation: An assessment of the eardrum and middle ear muscle reflexes.
- Otoacoustic emission testing: An assessment of the cochlea, the hearing organ in the inner ear.
Our audiologists use a wide range of hearing technologies to address children’s hearing loss, including:
- Hearing aids: We match children with the appropriate state-of-the-art, digital hearing technology through our hearing-aid evaluation process. Our audiologists also provide fitting and maintenance services.
- Bone-conduction and bone-anchored hearing aids: These hearing aids are used for children who can’t use traditional hearing aids. We provide fitting, programming and follow-up services for these specialized devices.
- FM systems and assistive listening devices: Some children may benefit from devices that improve their hearing in challenging listening situations, such as in the classroom. Our audiologists can test your child to see if he may benefit from these devices.
- Cochlear implant services: We offer cochlear implantation—an electronic medical device that replaces the function of the damaged inner ear—for profoundly deaf patients. Our audiologists provide assessment, programming and follow-up care for the implant after surgery.
About 3 in 1,000 babies are born in the U.S. with hearing loss. In most of those cases, there are no other medical conditions and no family history of hearing loss. Most of these hearing problems are identified during a newborn hearing screening in the hospital before a baby goes home. This pain-free assessment allows us to begin treatment as early as possible to help stimulate sound in your baby’s brain.
If your baby doesn’t pass the initial screening, you’ll receive a referral for a second screening within the first month. Depending on the results, you may need to schedule additional evaluations with an audiologist, who will determine whether your child has hearing loss and should see an otolaryngologist (ENT). Your child’s ENT doctor can determine the cause and treatment of the hearing loss.
Following your doctor’s recommendations, our specialists can help determine which additional evaluations and treatments may be necessary.
Children’s audiologists have extensive experience in pediatric hearing evaluations on young patients exhibiting a variety of symptoms, conditions and complications. In 2021 alone, we performed 1,498 ABR evaluations and newborn screenings and had more than 16,000 audiology encounters. Since we work exclusively with kids, this experience gives our audiologists a keen eye when interpreting results.
In 2021, we performed 81 pediatric cochlear implant surgeries. We offer a comprehensive approach to implantation. Our multidisciplinary team includes audiologists, ENTs and speech therapists to help your child achieve his goals. This team works together, and with your family, to specialize your child’s care.
Children’s is one of the only pediatric hospital systems in the Southeast that provides vestibular rehabilitation.
- Paula Harmon, MD, Medical Director, Hearing Loss Program
Children's Physician Group–Otolaryngology
Private practice pediatric otolaryngologist in our program
- Geoffrey Aaron, MD
- Jill Maddox, AuD, Audiology Manager
- Darby Blake, AuD, Audiology Clinical Supervisor
- Laura Berdelman, AuD
- Caitlin Browder, AuD
- Amanda Cross, AuD
- Molly England, AuD
- Heather Garvey, MS
- Erin Gowen, AuD
- Hilary Haddad, AuD
- Florence Himelfarb, AuD
- Erin Holman, AuD
- Tyler Lohman, AuD
- Vicki Lynn, AuD
- Sue Malkin, AuD
- Kelly Murphy, AuD
- Jennifer Reddaway, AuD
- Kat Rybolt, AuD
- Kaitlin Sipos, AuD
- Lauren Stott, AuD
- Nicole Street, AuD