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Supporting children with hearing loss

One to two babies in every 1,000 babies in the UK are born with permanent hearing loss in one or both ears. Most of these babies are born into families with no history of permanent hearing loss.  

There are different types of hearing loss/deafness:

  • Conductive: a conductive hearing loss is where the sound can’t travel easily through your outer or middle ear. The most common form is ‘glue ear’ which is a fluctuating loss and is temporary. There are also permanent types of conductive loss, which occur when the outer or middle ear structures (for example the tiny bones in your ear call the malleus, incus and stapes) don’t develop as expected.

    Sensori-neural: this is a hearing loss in the inner ear and is permanent. It usually means that the cochlea is not working effectively.
  • Mixed: when there is a conductive element (e.g. glue ear) as well as the sensori-neural deafness.

There are also different levels of hearing loss/deafness:

  • It can be mild, moderate, severe or profound.
  • It is possible to have the same level of deafness for all frequencies, or to have different hearing levels at different frequencies. For example, your child may have more difficulty hearing higher frequency sounds (e.g. s, f, th) than lower frequency sounds (e.g. oo, m).
  • Levels of deafness can increase and children can also develop a hearing loss later on (e.g. due to meningitis).
Signs of hearing loss in babies

Babies have a hearing check in the first few weeks after birth, but speak to your health visitor or see your GP if you think they might have difficulty hearing.

They may have a problem with their hearing if they:

• aren't startled by loud noises

• seem to hear some sounds but not others

• notice you when they see you, but not when you call their name

• don't turn towards voices by 4 months of age

• haven't started to say any recognisable words by around 15 months


For more about what to look out for, see NHS Newborn Screening leaflets on:

how a baby's hearing develops (PDF, 28kb)

Top 5 tips for communicating with Deaf young people

Made by Deaf young people this film is aimed at improving communication in the classroom and in general when working with Deaf young people.