Congenital hearing loss

Some children are born with a hearing loss or born with genes so that they will develop a hearing loss later in life. This article explains congenital hearing loss, the causes, the symptoms and the treatment options.
Congenital hearing loss

What is a congenital hearing loss?

Congenital hearing loss is a hearing loss that is present at birth (hearing loss at birth), develops at childbirth or is in the genes at birth so the child develops a hearing loss as it grows and gets older. A congenital hearing loss may also be called congenital deafness if the hearing loss is very severe or profound.

What causes congenital hearing loss?

A congenital hearing loss can have many causes, but in most cases it is genetics that cause a newborn´s hearing loss. This is called a genetic hearing loss (read more about genetic hearing loss). The genes that cause hearing loss can come from one or both parents.

The hearing loss can be present at birth or develop later.

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Among other causes of a congenital hearing loss are:

  • Maternal infections, such as rubella
  • Premature birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Birth injuries
  • Drug and alcohol use while pregnant
  • Maternal diabetes
  • Babies born with congenital CMV (Cytomegalovirus) may have hearing loss at birth or it may develop later.

Some babies have a genetic syndrome where hearing loss is a part of the syndrome like:

Most congenital hearing losses are a sensorineural hearing loss.

Some children are born with malformations of the ear or parts of the ear like atresia and microtia, that cause a conductive hearing loss.

What are the symptoms of a congenital hearing loss?

Many children get their hearing tested with a hearing screening when they are born. This screening will identify many congenital hearing losses. Read more about testing children´s hearing.

It can be difficult to identify a hearing loss among babies and toddlers, especially if the hearing loss is relatively mild. (Read more about how to identify a hearing loss among babies and toddlers or read about signs of hearing loss in children).

Congenital hearing loss in adults

A congenital hearing loss may also occur or develop later in life as a child, adolescent or as an adult. The hearing loss is related to the genes that are inherited and present at birth.

How to treat a congenital hearing loss?

The treatment of a congenital hearing loss depends on the cause of the hearing loss. Some types of conductive hearing loss can be treated or partially treated with an operation. But most cases of congenital hearing loss are treated with hearing aids or different types of hearing implants, such as cochlear implants and bone conduction devices.

What should I do if I think that my child has a congenital hearing loss?

If you suspect that your child may have a congenital hearing loss, we strongly recommend that you get your child’s hearing tested by a hearing professional.


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