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Learning About Abnormal Hearing Test Results in Children

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 are permanent and some last for a short time (temporary).

Hearing test results that are not within normal limits will show:

  • how serious your child's hearing loss is.
  • how your child hears different tones, frequencies, and speech in each ear.
  • where in the ear the hearing loss is.

What are some different types of hearing loss?

Hearing loss can last for a short time (temporary) or can be 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 typically 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. Hearing loss can be mild, moderate, severe, or profound.

Mixed hearing loss.

There is a combination of both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss.

Sometimes a child may only have problems with certain tones, or frequencies, including those that are important for hearing speech. For example, they may not hear high-pitched speech sounds like “s” or “t”, which are 2 of the most common speech sounds in English.

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 audiologist (hearing specialist) 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 audiologist 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 audiologist, doctor, or nurse advice line if you think your child's hearing loss is getting worse.

Where can you learn more?

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