Risk Factors for Childhood Hearing Loss

Risk factors for hearing loss in young children include the following:

  • Apgar score of 0–4 at 1 minute or 0–6 at 5 minutes after birth
  • Caregiver (e.g., parent, other relative, teacher, health care provider) concerns about hearing, speech, language, or other areas of development
  • Chronic ear infections (e.g., otitis media)
  • Congenital auditory system abnormalities
  • Exposure to loud noises or to medications that can damage the auditory system (ototoxic drugs; e.g., aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs [NSAIDs], antibiotics, diuretics, chemotherapy drugs)
  • Family history of genetic hearing impairment, neurological disorders (e.g., Hunter syndrome, neuropathies), or other conditions that can result in hearing loss (e.g., Waardenburg syndrome, Usher syndrome)
  • Head trauma
  • High blood levels of bilirubin (hyperbilirubinemia) at birth
  • In utero (before birth), neonatal (newborn), or childhood infections (e.g., bacterial meningitis, cytomegalovirus, herpes, rubella [German measles], syphilis, toxoplasmosis)
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Tumor (of the nervous system or auditory system)

Approximately 50 percent of infants born with a hearing impairment do not have an identifiable risk factor.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 27 Aug 2008

Last Modified: 18 Sep 2015