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Congenital hearing loss

Some people are born with hearing loss, which is either hereditary (genetic) or caused during pregnancy or childbirth. Today, most children are screened after birth, so doctors can detect hearing loss in infancy. However, mild congenital hearing loss may go undetected for a long period of time, be present only in one ear, or develop later in life. Screening for hearing loss as routine practice in infants is relatively new, so older generations may not have been screened for congenital hearing loss, and decades may go by before it is discovered. Do you have concerns? Read on to learn the facts.


Many forms of congenital hearing loss are genetic. People with these types of hearing loss inherit them from their parents or ancestors. This occurs when the transmission of genetic defects causes a loss of functionality in the hearing organs. Hearing loss from genetic defects can be present at birth or can develop later in life.

Most common causes of hereditary hearing loss:1

  • Down syndrome 

  • Usher syndrome 

  • Treacher Collins syndrome

  • Crouzon syndrome

  • Alport syndrome

  • Waardenburg syndrome

Non-hereditary congenital hearing loss

About 1 in 4 cases of congenital hearing loss are non-genetic. These are most often caused by illness or trauma before birth or during birth. Maternal exposure to different types of drugs and medications can also cause non-hereditary congenital hearing loss, especially in the early stages of pregnancy.

Most common causes of non-hereditary congenital hearing loss:1 

  • Maternal infections such as rubella/measles, cytomegalovirus, or herpes simplex virus 

  • Prematurity 

  • Low birth weight 

  • Birth injuries 

  • Toxins consumed by the mother during pregnancy, including drugs and alcohol

  • Complications associated with the Rhesus factor in the blood, which causes jaundice

  • Maternal diabetes

  • Anoxia — when the baby doesn't get enough oxygen

  • Preeclampsia (maternal high blood pressure while pregnant) 

Hearing loss can be difficult to recognize in infants and small children. However, early treatment and management of hearing loss is essential for language development, education and a healthy social life throughout youth. But it doesn't stop when we become adults; treating hearing loss is important to ensure continuing mental acuity and social inclusion for everyone.

At HearingLife, we strive to help people of all ages hear well. If your hearing loss may be treated with hearing care, we have hearing aids for any type of hearing loss from mild to severe. Our focus is to help people hear better, so they can communicate, learn and enjoy life.

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American Speech-Language-Hearing Association