Learning About Abnormal Hearing Test Results in Children

Parts of the ear

What is an abnormal hearing test result?

Some children have a hearing test and get abnormal results. This means that your child's hearing is not normal. But it doesn't always mean that your child will have lasting hearing problems. Some types of hearing loss get better on their own. And others can be treated.

An abnormal hearing test may show problems with nerves involved in hearing. Or it may show that your child hears in one ear better than in the other. Sometimes it shows that your child hears sounds but is not able to hear them as words.

What are some different types of hearing loss?

Hearing loss can last for a short time (temporary) or can be permanent.

Congenital hearing loss.

Your child is born without hearing or with less-than-normal hearing. This type is permanent.

Conductive hearing loss.

Sound is blocked before it reaches the inner ear. For example, too much wax in the ear or an ear infection can cause it. This type goes away with treatment.

Sensorineural hearing loss.

Sound reaches the inner ear. But a problem in the inner ear or in the nerves prevents normal hearing. This type is usually permanent. Meningitis can cause this type of hearing loss.

Some hearing loss is minor. And some is more serious. Sometimes a child may only have problems with certain tones, or frequencies. For example, he or she may not hear high-pitched sounds.

What can you do?

  • If your child's hearing loss is caused by a problem that can be treated, ask your doctor about the best treatment.
  • If your child's hearing loss is permanent, talk to your doctor about hearing aids and cochlear implants. A cochlear implant is a small electronic device that can help "make" sound.
  • Schedule follow-up hearing tests and doctor visits so you can track your child's hearing.
  • Talk to your child's teachers about your child's hearing. Tell them what they can do to help. Some hearing problems can delay your child's speech and language development.
  • Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think your child's hearing loss is getting worse.

Is it an emergency?

If you or someone in your care has chest pains, difficulty breathing, or severe bleeding, it could be a life-threatening emergency. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately.
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