What Is the Normal Hearing Range For A Child?

After a baby passes their newborn hearing screening in the hospital, parents often don’t think about their child’s hearing level. Hearing loss is not always obvious and can come as a surprise to parents. 

Hearing loss can interfere with learning and development so it is important to get your child’s hearing tested. It is important to diagnose and treat as early as possible to minimize the effects on speech development. Almost 15 percent of children have some severity of hearing loss. Childhood hearing loss can affect development in children and educational performance. 

School-aged children have a lot of resources to thrive. The effects on the child’s development will not be greatly affected when treatment is started early.   

What Is The Normal Hearing Range For Children?

The normal hearing range for children is -10 to 15 dB at all frequencies (0 to 20 dB when testing babies through the speakers). Parents of children might not realize they need to get their children hearing tests and they just assume they are hearing in the normal range.

A child can have hearing loss without any symptoms, some of the effects are noticeable. If you notice any of these things, you will want to get it checked out:

  • delayed speech
  • trouble paying attention
  • trouble following directions
  • saying “what?” a lot
  • imperfect speech production
  • listening to TV or music too loud 

A lot of times a person thinks hearing loss is an all-or-nothing condition. This is not the case. It is not a matter of whether the child can hear or not, but rather if they can hear in the normal range. There is a wide-range of levels of hearing.

Conductive Hearing Loss 

There are four different types of hearing loss: conductive, sensorineural, mixed, and auditory neuropathy. Conductive is the most common in children. This happens when sound is blocked in the outer ear or middle ear and it never reaches the inner ear. 

Causes of conductive hearing loss:

  • wax in the ear canal
  • swimmer’s ear
  • foreign object in the ear canal
  • a buildup of fluid behind the eardrum from an ear infection
  • deformity of the ear canal 
  • deformity of the middle ear bones

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Sensorineural is often permanent hearing loss. A damaged inner ear or auditory nerve causes this type of hearing loss. 

Possible causes of sensorineural hearing loss in children are:

  • heredity
  • infections or viruses
  • autoimmune disease of the inner ear
  • oxygen deprivation 
  • disease
  • exposure to loud noises 

Mixed hearing loss is a combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. Auditory neuropathy hearing loss is when sounds get through the ear normally but the speech signals being sent to the brain are disrupted. With auditory processing disorder, the language ability and language comprehension are affected. 

Hearing Loss Range

A normal range of hearing loss for a child is -10 to 15 dB HL. Slight hearing loss is 16 to 25. Mild hearing loss is up to 40. 71 to 90 is considered severe hearing loss with profound hearing loss above 91. 

So again, hearing loss is not all or nothing, and depending on the hearing level, the treatment would differ. The degree of hearing loss can also vary across different pitches/frequencies. This is referred to as the configuration of hearing loss and it is identified with a shape.

Common patterns include:

  • flat
  • sloping
  • rising
  • notched
  • troughed

The hearing loss may be different for high-frequency sounds and low-frequency sounds. A flat configuration is when a child hears the same across the range of frequencies both low and high.

When You Suspect Your Child Has Hearing Loss 

The worst thing you can do when you suspect hearing loss is to decrease conversation with your child. It is important to keep the language conditions consistent for emotional development as well as language development for both average hearing level children and children with hearing loss.

Try to look at your child when speaking with them. Make sure they can see your face in good lighting, this will help them to understand you better. Speak clearly but don’t shout. Background noise can make it difficult for your child to hear soft speech and soft sounds.  

It is hard to accept that there might be hearing loss to set up an appointment with a professional. However, things can only get better from there. Seeing a professional doesn’t change your child’s level of hearing loss, it just gives you the knowledge you need to make informed decisions for your child. 

Once your child is diagnosed and begins treatment their communication and life experience will improve. They will have more tools and hearing technology to navigate life with. 

A child is never too young for hearing aids and studies show that the sooner they get their hearing aids the less their language skills will be affected by the hearing loss. 

How Your Child is Tested For Hearing Loss

There are different hearing tests for children with hearing loss depending on their age and hearing level. Some tests measure the child’s physical response to sound and others measure the brain’s response to sound. 

Behavioral Hearing Test

For a behavioral test, a child (usually with a parent) is in a sound booth. The booth blocks out environmental sounds so the child is not distracted. The audiologist then presents sounds in the booth and monitors their response to the sounds. 

With behavioral testing, they are noticing eyes looking for the speech sounds, head turning towards the sound, or a startled response to the loud sounds or distant speech. The results are charted and put on a graph to determine the degree of hearing loss. 


This test is really simple and only takes a few seconds. This can show if there is ear wax or fluid in the ear. 

Diagnostic Auditory Brainstem Response Test (ABR)

This is a test that can be done on babies while they are sleeping. This is usually done if your child failed the newborn hearing screening in the hospital. 

Auditory Steady Rate Response Test (ASSR)

This is similar to the ABR. It uses sensors to determine the brain’s response to sound. 

Acoustic Reflex Test 

This test uses sponge earphones to test an involuntary muscle in the ear. 

School Tests

School-age children will have regular hearing tests throughout elementary school in most states. They are done by the school nurse or a speech pathologist. There are many times that a child with mild hearing loss or moderate hearing loss wouldn’t have been diagnosed if it wasn’t for the hearing tests at school. 

These tests are not always done in ideal environments and testing conditions but the value for those children with hearing loss is huge. The hearing screening programs at school shed light on some students who had poor performance. They improved greatly after being treated.

Moderate hearing loss can have big effects on a child’s speech perception. Even low levels of hearing loss being treated with amplification will have effects on a child’s educational performance. The difficulty an individual child experiences with a teacher is often not thought of as being hearing-related. Parents and teachers are surprised at the transformation after hearing treatment is started. 

Hearing affects the way humans interact with the world. Communications and conversation are going on all the time even when the child is not directly involved. Difficulty reading situations can isolate a child.  

Testing at Doctor’s Offices and Hearing Centers

Doctor’s test for hearing at well-visits can flag any issues. When you go to a hearing center you get a thorough examination for your child and any hearing losses with a hearing care professional. 

Hearing exams are simple and painless. Your child should not be bothered sitting in a hearing booth and listening to sounds. At Southwestern Hearing Centers we take the time to get to know you and your history. We explain the performance scores and degree of hearing loss so that you have a full understanding of your child with hearing loss. 

We explain normal hearing sensitivity and the treatment options for children with hearing loss. We work with children in a wide age range and work with the abilities of children to get the most accurate hearing test results.

We have fitted many hearing aids and implants in children. We will work with your family to find the best option for your child. We know this is a time of transition for your family, and we have many available resources. 

This is a beautiful time where you will see your child accelerate their learning and development once they begin treatment. Their world will open up with amplified hearing. They will have access to a world they may have felt isolated from when they couldn’t hear everything to interact effortlessly. 

Before you get your child tested, you just don’t know! Don’t live in wonder, find out where your child is at now so that you can get them the help they need.