What are the Most Common Causes of Deafness in Children?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2019
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There are many causes of deafness in children. Among them are prematurity and viruses a baby may be exposed to in his mother's womb. Ear infections may also cause both temporary or permanent hearing loss. Genes passed from parent to child may cause deafness in children as well. Additionally, deafness in children can develop as the result of Down syndrome and other conditions that develop because of gene abnormalities.

Perhaps surprisingly, premature birth is among the causes of deafness in children. When a child is born before eight months of pregnancy, his auditory system is less likely to be fully formed and mature than if he is born after a full-term pregnancy. This may increase a child’s risk of having hearing loss in the early years of life. Additionally, studies have shown that the ears of a premature baby are more vulnerable than those of a baby born at full term.

Sometimes the cause of deafness in children is virus exposure before they are even born. For example, if a woman becomes infected with a virus called cytomegalovirus while she is pregnant, her baby is more likely to be born with hearing loss. This virus can also lead to other serious problems for a developing baby. For instance, it can also cause a baby to be born with mental delays or be blind. It may also cause or contribute to the development of cerebral palsy.


Ear infections are also among the common causes of deafness in children. Many children develop ear infections without suffering a significant loss of hearing, but these infections do represent a real risk. A child who develops ear infections on an occasional basis may have a buildup of fluid in the ear that causes a temporary loss of hearing. When a child experiences many ear infections, however, his chances of developing permanent hearing loss increase.

Genetic factors are also among the causes of hearing loss in children. For example, if a parent has a gene for hearing loss, a child may be more likely to experience hearing loss as well. If both parents have genes for hearing loss, deafness is even more likely. Interestingly, sometimes the genes are only expressed in some of a parent’s offspring and some types of genetic hearing loss is only passed on to children of a particular gender.

Sometimes gene abnormalities that are not directly related to hearing loss can contribute to the loss of hearing in children. For example, Down syndrome, which results from a chromosomal abnormality, may cause or contribute to deafness in children. Likewise, conditions such as Alport and Usher syndrome, which are genetic syndromes, may cause deafness in children.


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