Hearing Loss in Children

The World Health Organization estimates that 0.5 - 5 in every 1,000 children are born with sensorineural deafness or will develop hearing loss in childhood. This amounts to 32 million children worldwide.

A Child's Development and Hearing Loss

A child's development is hindered if they are denied access to hearing. Children with untreated severe-to-profound hearing loss can experience:

  • Reduced speech and language development
  • Diminished environmental awareness
  • Lower educational attainment, and
  • Career opportunities and income potential that falls behind their normal hearing peers or those using hearing aids or implants.

Across EU Member States, access to paediatric hearing care and reimbursement differs. European citizens can experience variations in care including access to Newborn Hearing Screening, treatments such as cochlear implants or bone conduction devices, as well as rehabilitation services. This has created health inequality.

WHO recognizes the burden of hearing loss as a disability and the need for action to address this. Their World Report on Hearing provides clear guidance for hearing and ear care from birth through to old age.

Effective hearing screening from birth to old age

The Benefits of Hearing Loss Treatment for Children

Many children who use cochlear implant technology for sensorineural hearing loss attend mainstream schools. In fact, a number of studies have shown that children with access to treatment go on to have normal language development and improved understanding of speech. These benefits are enhanced if treatment is given at a young age and the latest technology is provided.

Infographic showing the benefits of hearing loss care

The cost of specialist education support for children with untreated hearing loss is a key consideration for Governments. For a child with additional needs the kindergarten support is ~€7,500 per year; this is 10 times greater than the cost of mainstream school (Baumgartner, 2011).

Read more about the economic impact of hearing loss

How can Policy Makers help?

  • Raise awareness of the importance of hearing health, the impact of hearing loss and the benefits of hearing loss treatment among the public and healthcare professionals.
  • Promote the need for robust national hearing health strategies including diagnosis, rehabilitation, service and maintenance.
  • Introduce a national Newborn Hearing Screening Programme.
  • Acknowledge access to professional hearing care as a right.
  • Promote access to effective treatments including hearing aids, bone conduction devices, and cochlear implants.
  • Explore and invest in effective methods of prevention and rehabilitation for hearing loss.
  • Share best practices among EU Member States.

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