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Johns Hopkins Health - Before You Assume ADHD, Check Your Child’s Hearing

Winter 2013
Issue No. 19

Before You Assume ADHD, Check Your Child’s Hearing

Date: January 17, 2013

hearing loss

When a child exhibits behavior problems in school or doesn’t progress academically in line with peers, some parents might think of a developmental disability or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). First, says Margaret Skinner, M.D., consider getting the child’s hearing checked, especially if he or she has suffered repeated ear infections.

“During an ear infection, there is fluid in the middle ear,” says Skinner, a Johns Hopkins pediatric otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat surgeon). “The infection can resolve but fluid may remain. That fluid is associated with mild but typically reversible hearing loss.”

Permanent hearing loss from a common infection is extremely rare. But, she says, “children who have chronic fluid in their ears can experience impacts on language and behavior development.”

Skinner recommends all children with hearing loss be evaluated by a pediatric otolaryngologist to help determine the best intervention, before going to a psychiatrist to evaluate behavior problems or developmental issues.

If hearing loss is a concern, parents can get children preferential seating in classrooms, ask for written instructions from teachers, or have the children fitted with hearing aids. Surgery is also an option in certain circumstances, Skinner says.

Now Hear This!
Discover more about children’s hearing problems from Emily Boss, M.D., Johns Hopkins pediatric otolaryngologist, in the video “The ABCs of Pediatric ENT,” visit