Hearing loss

Little boy with hearing aid speaks to therapist

Hearing loss ranges from mild to profound. Children with mild hearing loss may have trouble hearing quiet talking while children with profound hearing loss may not have any hearing.

If a baby or child can’t hear sounds below a certain volume, they might be diagnosed with hearing loss. This can be present at birth, which is called a congenital loss, or happen later in childhood.

More than half of children with congenital hearing loss affecting both ears have a genetic cause that may or may not run in families. Some children with hearing loss may have an abnormality in their inner ear or hearing nerve. Sometimes, hearing loss can be caused by a virus during pregnancy, called cytomegalovirus (CMV). Many people carry the CMV virus without symptoms.

Babies and young children need to hear to learn to speak. Hearing loss can make it hard to learn to communicate and make friends. Many deaf and hard-of-hearing children communicate through signing.

Early diagnosis of hearing loss means children may be able to access appropriate interventions to help their communication and social connections.

Little boy with hearing aid speaks to therapist

Who does it affect?

Who does it affect?

  • About 600 Australian infants are diagnosed each year with congenital hearing loss within weeks of birth. Up to 13% of school-aged children have a degree of hearing loss.
  • CMV is the only potentially preventable cause of hearing loss in children; it is the cause in around one in five children with moderate to profound hearing loss in both ears.
  • Just over half of hearing device fittings in Australia are for mild hearing loss in children aged under two.

Our hearing loss research

Our hearing loss research

We are working on several projects to help support children with hearing loss. These include:
  • The Victorian Childhood Hearing Longitudinal Databank (VicCHILD) which is a partnership between The Royal Children’s Hospital and MCRI. This research database has collected information on children with permanent hearing loss since 2012. When they turn two, five and 10 we assess each child’s learning, development and language.
  • Mild Matters, a research project which aims to find out how to best manage and help babies and young children with mild permanent hearing loss in both ears. We know hearing aids can help babies with moderate or severe hearing loss but we do not know whether they help babies with mild hearing loss.
  • We are working with the Gen V research project, one of the world's largest birth and parent studies, to determine how common congenital CMV is in Victorian newborns, and understand the long term outcomes for babies with congenital CMV but without symptoms at birth. Results should help determine whether universal newborn CMV screening is warranted and support the development of a same-day test for timely diagnosis and management.


Our vision

Our vision

Our goal is to improve the lives of deaf and hard of hearing children and their families through earlier detection, intervention and treatment. This will lead to improved hearing, communication, social connections, learning and development, creating better opportunities in life. Other goals include prevention and cure.