Treatments for Hearing Loss in Children

Hearing loss in children can be mild, moderate or severe. Roughly 1.4 infants per 1,000 newborns have some hearing loss. Hearing loss in children can be congenital (present at birth) or acquired. According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), five out of every 1,000 children are impacted by hearing loss, with most cases being diagnosed between ages three to 17.

There are multiple treatment and rehabilitation options for children with hearing loss. Especially with children, early intervention can be crucial to the child’s development.

Services and treatments for hearing loss in children include:

  • Special education (which helps children develop their speech, language, and social skills)
  • Medication
  • Hearing aids
  • Cochlear implants
  • Other medical or surgical procedures

Cochlear Implants for Children

Cochlear implants are a newer, technologically-advanced device used to treat hearing loss in both children and adults. Cochlear implants are designed for those with severe or profound hearing loss. Children might be candidates for cochlear implants if:

  • The child has severe or profound hearing loss in both ears
  • Child has tried using hearing aids, but they have not significantly improved the child’s ability to hear
  • Child is recommended for the cochlear implant procedure by a pediatric specialist or hearing doctor

Cochlear implants are not a hearing aid. While hearing aids are designed to amplify sound, a cochlear implant transmits auditory information from the inner ear (where the hearing loss or damage has occurred) to the brain.

Cochlear implants are approved by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for children ages 12 months and older.

Benefits of the Cochlear Implant Procedure for Children

As with any medical treatment, not all children with hearing loss, or those who use hearing aids, are candidates for cochlear implants. However, research has demonstrated that children with cochlear implants show a significant change in their hearing ability.

According to the American Academy of Audiology, studies have shown that nearly all children with cochlear implants, especially those implanted at a young age, demonstrated improvement in their sound detection and their auditory perception skills. In children with prelingual deafness, studies have shown improvement in the child’s speech skills and overall ability to understand speech.

According to the FDA, the potential benefits of cochlear implants include:

  • Hearing could possibly improve to near-normal ability (depending on the patient)
  • Increased perception of loud, medium and soft sounds
  • Ability to understand speech without lip-reading
  • Easier to talk/listen on the phone
  • Might be able to listen to music or watch TV more easily

Not everyone with cochlear implants will see these types of improvements with their hearing after the procedure. Typically, children improve at a slower pace and more training is needed to help the child “hear” and interpret sounds with the cochlear implants.

After the surgical procedure, all patients must learn how to use their cochlear implants and performance can improve over time. In children, it’s possible for performance to improve over several years, as their speech, language and communication skills are still developing.

Cochlear Implant Surgery for Children at Swedish Medical Center

Swedish Medical Center is a leader in providing safe and effective medical procedures to treat hearing loss, including cochlear implant surgery.

In 2017 alone, hearing specialists at Swedish Medical Center performed over 100 cochlear implant procedures, with over half of these surgeries performed on pediatric patients.

Quick facts about the cochlear implant procedure for children at Swedish Medical Center:

  • The vast majority of these procedures are outpatient, which means that your child doesn’t have to stay overnight at the hospital
  • Cochlear implants are not turned on right away. Your child’s ears need time to heal after the procedure.
  • Children will need to return to the clinic to get their implants programmed. At Swedish Medical Center, all follow-up after the procedure happens at your physician’s office.
  • Learning how to use, hear and listen with the cochlear implant takes time and practice, for both children and adults. In many cases, children with cochlear implants visit an audiologist or speech-language pathologist.
What is an audiologist?

Helping Children with Hearing Loss in Colorado and Worldwide

Swedish Medical Center is committed to helping children with hearing loss in Denver, throughout Colorado and around the globe. Two of our board-certified physicians, Dr. David Kelsall and Dr. James Lupo, are heavily involved in the World Hearing Network, an international organization of doctors and medical professionals who work worldwide to help alleviate hearing loss and diseases of the ear.

Additionally, Swedish Medical Center partners with the Cochlear Kids Camp, a nonprofit that hosts a kid’s camp every summer in Colorado for children age 3-18 who have cochlear implants. Cochlear Kids Camp has helped more than 4,000 kids and their families connect with others who have a cochlear implant. Swedish Medical Center also participates in research to further assist in the development of these hearing devices.