Hearing loss and children

Hearing technology helps relationships grow

Conversations build relationships

By giving children access to a world full of conversations, we can help them develop the relationships and skills they need to live their best lives – to play, interact, learn, communicate and ultimately, succeed.

As a parent, educating yourself about hearing loss in babies, toddlers and children is the first step towards making the best decisions for your child’s future. Taking action early in your child’s life is very important.

Strong relationships help children understand their world, strengthen brain architecture and support the development of communication and social skills.1

The power of serve and return

Back-and-forth interactions and conversations provide the basis for these important relationships and are known as ‘serve and returns’. Filled with developmental benefits they stimulate neural connections, shape brain architecture and support the development of communication and social skills.1 These interactions encourage children's curiosity and help them understand their world.

Both quantity and quality matter

The quantity of words and conversations a child is exposed to influences brain development and helps with developing vocabulary and academic outcomes.2,3 Young listeners need access to millions of words and thousands of hours of listening to develop spoken language and literacy.2,4

It's not only the number of conversations that is important but also the diversity and complexity of the language you use and how clearly your child can hear it.5

Every conversation counts


1. Look for communication efforts from your child and provide an appropriate response back.

Phonak Tennis Illustration

The 'serve' includes all communication attempts like a young baby's wiggle, a toddler's pointing or an older child asking "why?". The 'return' is any appropriate response back, whether it's a smile, a facial expression or words. When you return a serve, your child knows that their thoughts and feelings are heard and understood.


2. Ask your child questions and take time to actively listen.

Questions encourage children to be active turn-takers. And when you make an effort to actively listen, you acknowledge your child and strengthen the bond between the two of you. You can make the most of these interactions by using rich and varied vocabulary and stimulating your child’s imagination with questions.

Boy with toy and dad

3. Build serve and return interactions into daily routines.


Everyday routines are perfect opportunities for increasing serve and return interactions. For example, when changing diapers or during morning walks to school. By doing so, conversations become a natural way of communicating and your child gets meaningful interactions throughout their day.


4. Ensure conversations are not missed.

By giving your child access to clear, rich sound in every situation, they will not miss out on conversations and bonding opportunities. Your child needs:

  • Hearing aids worn every waking hour
  • Roger microphone technology use when in loud noise or over distance6

Removal of disturbing noises (e.g. turn off the radio, close the windows).


Ears are the doorway to the brain

It may be helpful to think of ears as being doorways to the brain and hearing loss as a doorway problem. If sounds do not reach the brain as they should, important auditory information is lost. When sounds are not heard, children miss out on all the developmental benefits of 'serve and return' conversations.

Learn how we hear

Hearing loss in children

If your child does not consistently ‘return’ (or respond appropriately to surrounding sound or your words), it could be because they are not paying attention. However, inconsistent ‘returns’, could be a sign of an inability to hear properly. Take note of any changes in your child’s behavior and look for clues that might indicate hearing difficulty.

Signs, types and causes of hearing loss

Hearing tests for children

Your child’s hearing can be tested in a number of different ways. The main purpose of a hearing test is to determine the severity and type of hearing loss.

Hearing tests available for children

What you can do to help your child

Thanks to modern hearing technology, the future for children with hearing loss looks brighter than ever before. Our dedicated Sky M hearing aid portfolio has been designed specifically to meet the hearing needs of children of all ages. In challenging listening situations, like in noise or over distance, Roger wireless microphone technology can further improve speech understanding.

How to help your child

With Roger technology, children are exposed to up to 5,300 more words in an 8 hour day.7 They also have access to 12% more child directed speech compared to using hearing aids alone.8

Together, we can change your child’s life

At Phonak, we understand the listening needs of children and the importance of providing them with the best access to all of the sounds in their environment. Phonak has over 45 years of expertise in the field of pediatric audiology and we work closely with leading pediatric specialists, hearing healthcare professionals and teachers to create innovative holistic solutions for our future generations.


1 National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. (2004). Brain architecture. Retrieved from https://developingchild.harvard.edu/science/key-concepts/brain-architecture/, accessed August 19th, 2019.

Hart, B., & Risley T. R. (1995). Meaningful differences in the everyday experience of young American children. Baltimore: Paul H Brookes Publishing.

3 Romeo, R. R., Leonard, J. A., Robinson, S. T., West, M. R., Mackey, A. P., Rowe, M. L., & Gabrieli, J. D. E. (2018). Beyond the 30-million-word gap: Children’s conversational exposure is associated with language-related brain function. Psychological Science, 29(5), 700-710.

4 Dehaene, S. (2009). Reading in the Brain: The Science and Evolution of a Human Invention. New York, NY: Viking.

5 Hurtado, N., Marchmann, V. A., & Fernald, A. (2008). Does input influence uptake? Links between maternal talk, processing speed and vocabulary size in Spanish-learning children. Developmental Science, 11(6), 31-39.

6Thibodeau, L. (2014). Comparison of speech recognition with adaptive digital and FM wireless technology by listeners who use hearing aids. American Journal of Audiology

7 Benitez-Barrera, C.R., Angley G., & Tharpe, A.M. (2018). Remote microphone system use at home: Impact on caregiver talk. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, Vol. 61, 399-409.

8 Benítez-Barrera, C., Thompson, E., Angley, G., Woynaroski, T., & Tharpe, A.M. (2019). Remote Microphone System Use at Home: Impact on Child-Directed Speech. Journal of Speech Hearing Language Research, 62(6): 1-7.