Hearing in children & newborns

Hearing services for children

When a child hears the best they can, they’re able to learn, play, grow and make connections with others. It can be scary when you think your child might have difficulty hearing, but there are so many options for support. We’ll help you understand why certain children are more vulnerable to hearing difficulties, how to look for signs of hearing loss in your child at home and what to do if you’re concerned.


Consider getting your child’s hearing tested if…

  • They have a close family history of hearing loss
  • They have frequent middle ear fluid and/or ear infections
  • They have certain illnesses that may cause hearing loss, such as Meningitis, etc
  • They have certain syndromes
  • They take certain medications that can cause hearing damage
  • They have facial or skull differences, such as cleft lip and palate
  • They’re exposed to high noise levels on a regular basis, like listening to loud music through headphones


How to look for signs of hearing loss in your child

If you think your little one might have difficulty hearing, the best thing you can do is to get treatment as early as possible, and we’re here to help you do that. To screen your child’s hearing milestones at home, download our children’s milestones checklist.


Hearing services for newborns

It can be hard to know if your baby has difficulty hearing, since they can’t tell you that they can’t hear. It’s never too early to get your little one’s hearing tested — even the youngest of babies can have easy, painless hearing tests.

Most newborns have their hearing tested before even leaving the hospital. If your baby wasn’t screened, get in touch with us to make an appointment as soon as possible. 

The following Hearing and Speech Nova Scotia locations offer newborn hearing screening: 

Some babies have risk factors that make them more vulnerable to experiencing hearing loss:

  • Family history of hearing loss
  • Maternal infection during pregnancy
  • Breathing difficulty/respiratory depression
  • TORCH syndrome: (T)oxoplasmosis, (O)ther Agents, (R)ubella (also known as German Measles), (C)ytomegalovirus, and (H)erpes Simplex
  • Defects of the head, neck or ears such as ear anomalies or cleft lip and/or palate
  • Elevated bilirubin
  • Meningitis
  • Small at birth (less than 1500 grams)
  • Stay in Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) greater than 12 hours
  • Ototoxic medications

If your newborn meets any of these criteria, we’d recommend getting their hearing tested if you’ve haven’t already.


How is newborn hearing tested?

There are two tests that can be used to screen your baby’s hearing. Both are gentle and work best when your baby is asleep.

Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE)

A soft ear tip is placed in your baby’s ear and plays sounds at a quiet level. We don’t need to see a reaction from your baby. The machine looks for echoes from the inner ear to let us know if the ear is healthy.

Automated Auditory Brainstem Response (AABR)

Sensors and earphones are placed on your baby when they are asleep. The earphones play soft sounds and the sensors pick up the brainstem’s response to the sound. Again, we don’t need to see the baby respond. Responses picked up by the sensors let us know if the baby’s ears are healthy.


Are you concerned about your little one’s hearing?

If you’re worried about your child’s hearing, we’re here to help and make sure that you receive the best care, or by making outside referrals, to appropriate providers.