Some children who are born deaf recover from their deafness

Clinical research conducted in the Department of Communication Disorders at the University of Haifa revealed that some children who are born deaf "recover" from their deafness and do not require surgical intervention.

To date, most babies who are born deaf are referred for a cochlear implant. "Many parents will say to me: 'My child hears; if I call him, he responds'. Nobody listens to them because diagnostic medical equipment did not register any hearing. It seems that these parents are smarter than our equipment," said Prof. Joseph Attias, a neurophysiologist and audiologist in the Department of Communication Disorders at the University of Haifa, who made the discovery.

There are two causes of congenital deafness among children. One is the lack of hair cells, receptors in the inner ear that convert sounds into pulse signals that activate the auditory nerve. The second cause is a malfunction of the nerves. A child may be born with what appears to be a normal inner ear, but the hair cells do not "communicate" with the auditory nerves and the child cannot hear. To date, doctors have recommended the same treatment for all children born deaf. Once a child has been diagnosed as deaf, doctors recommend a cochlear implant, a surgically- implanted electronic device that bypasses the hair cells and directly stimulates the auditory nerve. Prof. Attias stresses that a cochlear implant is an excellent treatment for children with congenital deafness whose hearing does not improve over time. However, it appears that some children are born with "temporary deafness" a condition previously unidentified.

This discovery, like other revolutionary discoveries, was made by chance. A child who was born with malfunctioning hair cells and was scheduled for a cochlear implant was referred to Prof. Attias for a pre-surgical evaluation. The evaluation found that the child's brain and auditory nerves exhibited beginning responses to sound stimuli. The surgery was postponed. Follow-up visits showed increasing function of the hair cells and eventually the child reached a state of normal hearing. Prof. Attias, who is part of a cochlear implant team at Schneider Children's Medical Center, looked in the department archives and found other, similar cases. "Because these children go through a series of tests and evaluations by different doctors, a process that often takes months, there are cases of children who were initially referred for the procedure who didn't have it done. Sometimes parents decide not to do the surgery; sometimes they do it elsewhere. I called parents and found another seven cases of children who were diagnosed as deaf, did not have the procedure done, and began to hear," said Prof. Attias.

Prof. Attias then found another five children who had been referred to him for pre-operative testing who had begun to hear. At the end of his clinical research, he identified a "window of opportunity" of 17 months during which deaf children may begin to hear. "A child whose deafness is caused by a malfunctioning connection between hair cells and the auditory nerve should not have a cochlear implant in the first 17 months of life. Research results show the possibility that at least some of these children undergo the procedure for nothing," explained Prof. Attias.

He added that some of the children only develop partial hearing, which can be augmented with external hearing aids. Prof. Attias is now researching "temporary deafness" among young children, looking to find a way to identify those who will recover and those who will not.


  1. Janice Locke Janice Locke United States says:

    I was told he didn't have the proper growth of hair in the left ear at all and partial in the right.

    My daughter was very sick during her preg. with him and never gained weight.We were never told that she has a name for what she had at the time nor was it addressed at the time. She is now going to have her 2nd child and has just found this out.

    They were going to do the implant on him and the Dr. just called her to let her know they aren't going to do them due to stress on him with all he is dealing with.

    The baby has a real problem with textures and now he wont eat unless its certian baby food fed off his pacifier.

    I am trying to learn all I can because I don't want the implant done. God gave him what he wanted him to have and the chance to get better, I see it as taking away something he could never get back, once done.

    I came across your page and it confirms what I have said for almost 2 years.

    He was a Christmas Baby and will soon be 2.

    I would like all the information I can get to help my daughter understand that he still has a good chance of coming out of this in good standing.

    Thank You , Mrs. Janice Locke
    November 3rd, 2010

  2. Jennifer Dewing Jennifer Dewing United States says:

    I was diagnosed with a 60% hearing loss in my right ear as a young child. i wore an external hearing aid for many years. During puberty, I found that I needed to turn the hearing aid down more and more, until I no longer needed to turn it on at all. After awhile, I didn't even wear it. Testing showed that all but around 5% of my hearing in my right ear had developed.

    I am now 32 and I have been able to hear in both ears for about 20 years. My hearing is not as good in my right as it is in my left, but I no longer need any device to hear. Sometimes, I can tell that the hearing in my right ear "winks in and out" so to speak, but it is not something that is long lasting.

    I wonder if this is something that occurred in me.

  3. joanne payne joanne payne Canada says:

    My 28 yr. old son swallowed his own muconium at birth and was in I.C.U. for 14 days. A Dr. from Sick Children's Hospital diagnosed him as being completely deaf during his 14 days in I.C.U.

    Every day for the 1st 3 months of his life, I had him in a baby seat on the kitchen table and through out the day I would smash pots and pans together as I came up from behind him, not wanting to accept this diagnoses.  Nothing, not even a flinch came from him. Finally one day, as I came up from behind him smashing those pots and pans together, his head turned in my direction as he stared at me!

    That was the beginning of his 1st day of hearing! Today my son has been in the Canadian Navy for the past 7.5 yrs. with perfect hearing!

    Through the years, I have done some research here and there, but it wasn't until today (Friday August 14 2015) that I finally came across your artical which confirmed my son's temporary loss of hearing. Thank you so much for publishing this as now I can rest knowing that he wasn't the only child to be born with a complete hearing loss only to regain full hearing by the  third month of his life!

    For any parents going through this incredibly stress-full time of your lives, I pray for you all and may my story bring hope and prayers to all!

  4. E M E M Netherlands says:

    Joanne, Thank you for your comment. Can you please let know what kind of test were done to conclude that your son was completely deaf? Were the tests done afterwards as well? Or you have replied on the reaction of your son?

  5. Azra Hamzic Azra Hamzic Australia says:

    My niece just webt through some test and they have told us that its profound deafness.
    She can only hear 20% which is high pitch noice planes trucks etc. We have been told that her ear drum is perfectly fine but its her nerves that arent responding. What are the chances of her hearing developing and perhaps her hair cells developing and responding to sound. We dont want to take on that she is deaf as we feel that she can hear. Or is it just too early to tell.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
Post a new comment
You might also like...
Comparison of seroconversion rates and antibody responses in children across the three SARS-CoV-2 waves in Melbourne, Australia