Unilateral Hearing Loss in Children: Characteristics, clinical management, and outcomes

Worldwide, population based newborn hearing screening has led to an increase in the number of children with permanent unilateral hearing loss who are identified in the first years of life. Historically, these children were typically not identified until age 4 to 5 years of age on average, but a ‘new’ clinical population has emerged. While intervention needs and services for children with moderate loss and greater are generally well-established, considerable uncertainty and variation surrounds intervention services for children with milder losses. Decisions about what constitutes optimal clinical management of these children continue to be challenging. Information about the effects of early-identified unilateral hearing loss on developmental outcomes continues to grow.

This paper will present a brief overview of the prevalence and characteristics of unilateral loss using population-based data collected from a newborn screening cohort of approximately 180,000 children (2003-2017). Clinical practices related to amplification will be briefly discussed.  Data from our research on the auditory and language development of preschool and young school-age children with early-identified unilateral hearing loss will be presented. Insights from parent report of amplification use as well as from interviews related to early experiences with diagnosis, amplification, and the effects of hearing loss on functioning will be discussed.

Learning objectives:

  1. Describe the clinical characteristics of children identified with unilateral hearing loss
  2. Identify current practices and challenges in the intervention of young children with unilateral hearing loss
  3. Describe outcomes in auditory and spoken language development for early-identified children with unilateral hearing loss