5 Common Causes of Temporary Hearing Loss In Children

If you’re a parent, you probably know the feeling that some things you say to your child go in one ear and out the other. But if they do seem to struggle to hear you or complain that noises sound funny, there may be a problem with their hearing. Don’t worry and immediately assume the worst; not all hearing loss is permanent, and they may just be dealing with a certain condition that causes temporary hearing loss. Here are five common conditions that cause temporary hearing loss in children.

Ear Infections

Ear infections are very common in children. They typically occur when fluid becomes trapped in the middle ear, causing it to become swollen and infected. While older children will be able to simply explain that their ear hurts, if you have younger ones who cannot verbalize their discomfort, look out for these telltale signs:

  • Tugging or pulling on the ear
  • Crying and general fussiness
  • Problems sleeping
  • Fever
  • Fluid draining from the ear
  • Balance issues
  • Problems hearing or responding

The good news is that most infections clear up on their own, and symptoms resolve, but you can always check in with your child’s doctor to see if they recommend treatment.

Swimmer’s Ear

When water gets stuck in the ear, it can cause another type of ear infection called swimmer’s ear. It generally occurs after swimming, especially in non-chlorinated water like a local lake, but it can also happen after baths or showers. In addition to pain, it can also cause muffled hearing. If you child has swimmer’s ear, here’s what to do:

  • Ensure that their ears are dry and clean after swimming or bathing
  • Do not insert anything into the ears, including cotton swabs
  • See a doctor to get antibiotic ear drops
  • Follow your doctor’s instructions for treating your child’s pain

Earwax Buildup

Our ears produce earwax to protect the eardrum and ear canal, preventing dirt, dust and other particles from entering the ear and irritating the eardrum. While they also know how to get rid of the excess, sometimes a buildup can still happen. If your child complains they can’t hear well or sound is muffled, they may have an excess of earwax that is blocking the ear canal and preventing them from hearing well. In this case, avoid inserting anything into the ear, such as cotton swabs — washcloths are ok to use to gently clean your child’s ear. Take them to your family doctor, who will be able to remove the excess safely within just a few minutes.

Other Obstructions

Little kids are curious and have a tendency to stick everything they find into their mouths. When they get a little older, they can sometimes insert things like pebbles, pearls, or small candy into their ears, too. This can lead to swelling, an infection, and temporary hearing loss. While you may not be able to tell immediately if your child has something stuck in their ear, they may complain of an earache, or you can sometimes see some discharge from the ear. Don’t try to remove the object yourself as you may just push it deeper into the ear canal and damage the eardrum. Instead, call your doctor or take them to the nearest emergency room. They’ll be able to remove the object quickly and without pain.

Common Cold

Our ears, nose and throat are closely linked, so an infection in that area can make our hearing feel a little muffled. Generally, cold or flu related hearing impairment is temporary and passes when the other symptoms resolve. However, if it persists and your child keeps complaining about it for more than 2-3 days, it’s important to speak to a doctor about it.

How to Stay on Top of Your Child’s Hearing Health

  • Wash their ears daily with a soft washcloth and warm water
  • Never insert anything into the ear canal, including cotton swabs
  • Be mindful of hearing milestones, and if your child seems to have learning delays related to speech and language development, have their hearing evaluated by a professional. If you discover they have permanent hearing loss and require hearing aids, wearing them can significantly improve their quality of life.

If you’re concerned about your child’s hearing ability, an evaluation by a professional audiologist can put your mind at ease — and some children find it quite fun. Book an appointment for a hearing test today!

About Dr. Marie Vetter-Toalson Au.D.

Dr. Marie Vetter-Toalson Au.D. is the owner of Chicago Hearing Services and a Doctor of Audiology dedicated to empowering her patients and the public with greater knowledge and education around hearing health.