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Hearing Loss

There are three main types of hearing loss: sensorineural, conductive and mixed (both sensorineural and conductive). These types of hearing loss can be present at birth (congenital). Or they can occur after birth (acquired).

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

This is a loss of function in the inner ear or with the connection to the brain. Causes of this type of hearing loss include:

Conditions that are present at birth (congenital) such as:

  • The mother has an infection such as toxoplasmosis, rubella, cytomegalovirus, herpes or syphilis
  • The mother has diabetes
  • Complications linked to Rh factor in the blood
  • Genetic factors and syndromes the child has at birth
  • A condition that is passed down in the family (hereditary)

Conditions that occur after birth (acquired) such as:

  • Loud noise exposure
  • Injury
  • Infections
  • Damage from certain medicines that can be harmful to the ears
  • Low birth weight or prematurity

Conductive Hearing Loss

This is a problem in the outer or middle ear where sound waves are not sent to the inner ear correctly. It is the most common type of hearing loss in children. It often develops after birth. Factors that may cause this type of hearing loss are:

Congenital conditions such as:

  • Problems with the outer ear
  • Problems with the eardrum
  • Problems with the outside ear canal
  • Problems with the three tiny bones that send sound waves to the middle ear (ossicles)

Acquired conditions such as:

  • Excessive wax
  • Something gets stuck in the ear canal, such as beads or popcorn kernels
  • Middle ear tumors
  • Problems with the eustachian tube
  • Ear infections
  • Ongoing (chronic) ear infections with fluid in the middle ear
  • Ruptured eardrum (perforated eardrum)

Mixed Hearing Loss

This is a combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. There is damage to the outer, middle, or inner ear or the auditory nerve.

Children's Team

Children's Team


George Zalzal

George Zalzal

Division Chief, Ear, Nose, and Throat (Otolaryngology)
Pamela Mudd

Pamela Mudd

Director, Pediatric Voice Program
Diego Preciado

Diego Preciado

Vice Chief, Pediatric Otolaryngology
Director, Pediatric Otolaryngology Fellowship
Co-Director of the Cochlear Implant Program
Brian Reilly

Brian Reilly

Co-Director of the Cochlear Implant Program
Rahul Shah

Rahul Shah

Vice President
Chief Quality and Safety Officer
Acting CMIO
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3-year-old Molly is obsessed with the movie “Frozen.” And like the fearless princess in Disney’s icy animated epic, there’s something very special about Molly. She was born deaf.



Hearing and Speech

The Hearing and Speech Center at Children’s National Health System provides expert diagnosis and care for children with audiology and communication disorders.

Ear, Nose and Throat (Otolaryngology)

Our pediatric otolaryngology experts diagnose and treat a wide range of pediatric ear, nose and throat disorders.