Infants’ and toddlers’ ears haven’t fully developed, so it’s important to take extra precautions to protect against hearing loss and recognize its signs. As their ears grow during their first few years, knowing the signs of hearing loss in infants and knowing how to protect a baby’s hearing can create a safer environment for your child.
Signs of Hearing Loss in Babies
Infants and toddlers are sometimes born with hearing loss, otherwise known as congenital hearing loss. Hearing loss can take many forms, and it can present in one or both ears to varying degrees. Diagnosing this condition early can help children develop language skills and help parents and other family members communicate with them effectively.
Some babies can’t hear sounds below a certain volume, or their ears can’t distinguish sounds at a certain pitch. Most hospitals will perform a hearing test for babies within two days after birth. However, hearing loss can progress over time, and infants who pass the hearing screening can still show signs of hearing loss later. Hearing loss in babies can look like the following:
- No reaction when you call their name
- Trouble understanding spoken conversation
- Sitting close to the TV or turning it up loudly
- Misunderstood or misheard questions
- Speech delays and problems with verbal articulation
- Struggling in school or daycare
- Earaches and complaints about noise around them
- Trouble hearing conversations over the phone or video
- Concentrating intently on a speaker’s face to read lips
No two children present with hearing loss in exactly the same way. Knowing the different signs can make it easier to notice and get the right help for your child.
Hearing Hazards for Infants and Toddlers
Children can develop hearing loss over time, and existing hearing impairments can become more pronounced as they get older. Because babies’ ears are more sensitive to loud noises than adult ears, noises that may not bother the adults in your home may not only disturb but cause hearing loss in babies.
For infants and toddlers, sound levels should stay below 70-80 decibels (dB). Anything louder can potentially damage a baby’s ears. To keep sound levels safe, take note of potential hearing hazards, including:
- Loud events
- Television and other electronics
- Toys that make noise
- Household appliances
- White noise machines
When it comes to choosing toys for your child, test them yourself if they make noise. That way, you can determine whether they may be too loud if the child plays with them close to their ears. At such close range, even 80dB can cause harm.
How to Protect a Baby’s Hearing
Hearing protection for infants and toddlers looks different than it does for adults. Earmuffs and noise-canceling headphones provide the best ear protection for babies. They should fit snugly without being too tight and feel comfortable for the child.
Noise-canceling headphones for infants and toddlers should reduce noise by at least 20dB. However, if you plan to take your child to a much louder event, such as a festival or fireworks show, consider something with a higher Noise Reduction Rating (NRR). When it comes to hearing protection options, avoid earplugs. They can pose a choking hazard if the child removes them, and they can get lost more easily.
At Sonora Hearing Care in Tucson, our audiologists have the expertise you need to understand your child’s hearing needs. Schedule a consultation to speak with an audiologist about hearing protection for your child today.