Hearing Loss / Cochlear Implant

Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss is due to dysfunction of the outer or middle ear. Conductive hearing loss can often be medically corrected.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the cochlea or VIII cranial nerve. It can be congenital (present at birth) or acquired (illness-, injury- or noise-induced.) The degree of loss can be mild to profound and is typically not medically reversible.

Mixed Hearing Loss

Mixed hearing loss has both conductive and sensorineural components.

  • Congenital hearing loss has a genetic cause in more than 50 percent of cases. Other causes of congenital hearing loss include prenatal infections, illnesses, toxins consumed by the mother during pregnancy, or other conditions occurring around the time of birth.
  • Acquired sensorineural hearing loss can be caused by ototoxic medications, meningitis, head injury and noise exposure.
  • Acquired conductive hearing loss can be caused by foreign objects in the ear canal, fluid in the middle ear, or involvement of the middle ear bones (ossicles).

All newborns undergo a Universal Newborn Hearing Screen prior to leaving the hospital. Therefore, congenital hearing loss is often diagnosed soon after birth. However, parents should be aware that hearing loss may be acquired later. The following are risk factors and symptoms of hearing loss:

  • The child has a family member who has already been identified as having hearing loss
  • The infant does not startle or cry at loud, sudden noise
  • The child does not appear comforted by caregiver's voice
  • The child does not respond to his or her name when called from behind
  • The child relies on visual information and routine for communication
  • There is a delay in language comprehension and/or language expression

When there is a known hearing loss, specialized evaluation is done through parent reports, observation of play and standardized testing. It is essential that the child is wearing his or her amplification device (hearing aids, FM system, cochlear implant) during the assessment.

To determine treatment needs, the speech-language pathologist works closely with professionals that include audiologists, otolaryngologists, pediatricians and social workers.

For children with sensorineural hearing loss, management involves an interdisciplinary team approach. Children may be equipped with hearing aids and/or FM systems. They may require therapy with a speech-language pathologist and/or an aural rehabilitation audiologist. For children who don't benefit from hearing aids, cochlear implantation is an option for families choosing an auditory / verbal communication mode for their child.

As a national leader in pediatric speech pathology, Cincinnati Children's has a program for the treatment of hearing loss. This program is staffed by speech-language pathologists who have undergone specific specialty training. We welcome referrals from primary care providers and specialty physicians.

If your child's speech is a concern to you, contact the Speech Pathology Department at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, 513-636-4341. Ask to speak to a speech pathologist.


Last Updated 04/2013