How Hearing Loss Affects Children

Some 34 million children around the world suffer from hearing loss. The earlier in a child’s life a hearing loss occurs, the more serious the effects on their development.

34 million

children around the world suffer from hearing loss

There are four key ways in which hearing loss affects children:

  • Causes delay in speech and language
  • Reduced academic achievement
  • Social isolation
  • Impacts future career choices

The earlier the problem is detected and treatment started, the less serious the impact will be.

Hearing loss and your baby

While hearing loss is relatively common among newborn babies, it can affect their ability to develop speech, language and social skills. Most newborn babies in the US have their hearing checked before they leave hospital. However, if a newborn isn’t screened at hospital then testing should be carried out before they are one month old. Babies born with hearing loss have what is called congenital hearing loss. However, hearing loss can also develop later on in babies or during childhood and adulthood.

If your baby shows signs of hearing loss, get their hearing tested as soon as possible.

The impact of hearing loss in children

Vocabulary

When a child has hearing loss, their vocabulary tends to develop more slowly. They will generally learn words like catred and five, far more easily than more abstract words such as afterto, and jealous. They can also experience difficulty with function words such as aarean and the. As children get older, the gap between the vocabulary of those with hearing loss and those normal hearing children will get wider.

Sentence structure

Children with hearing loss are more likely to understand and produce simpler, shorter sentences than other children with normal hearing. They can also experience difficulty being able to understand and write complex sentences, particularly those with relative causes and passive voice. When children have reduced hearing, it’s also common for them not to be able to hear word endings such as -ed or -s which can often cause misunderstanding.

Speaking

As children with hearing loss aren’t able to hear quiet sounds such as sshft, and k, they don’t use them in their own speech. This can lead to their speech being difficult for others to understand. There is also the problem that they may not be able to hear their own voice when they speak. This can lead them to either speaking too loudly or too quietly. The pitch of their speech can also be too high or they can sound as if they are mumbling.

Academic achievement

These factors can have a significant impact on a child’s academic achievements. Unless there is early enough intervention:

  • Children with mild to moderate hearing loss can achieve up to four school grades lower than children without hearing loss.
  • Children with severe to profound hearing loss generally achieve skills no higher than fourth-grade.

The academic achievement between children with hearing loss and those with normal hearing will usually continue to widen as the children progresses through school.

Social functioning

Children with any degree of hearing loss can find themselves feeling isolated, lack friends and generally have an unhappy time in school. This is particularly apparent when they don’t have the opportunity to socialize with other children with hearing loss.

Hearing loss in young adults and teens

While hearing loss is often associated with occurring at birth or as a result of old age, hearing loss in young adults and teens is also common. Almost 15% of children and young adults aged between six and 19 have some degree of hearing loss. Some of this is due to injury or medical conditions. However, it can also be linked to lifestyle. A study found that 12.5% of young people experience hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears) as a result of listening to loud music at high volumes through earbuds.

What you can do

Children who are identified as having a hearing loss early and begin to receive treatment and support can develop language that is in line with their normal hearing peers. Early family-centred support is particularly important in promoting language and cognitive development. Meanwhile, an audiologist will evaluate your child’s hearing and suggest the most appropriate intervention and treatment. This could include:

  • Medicines (such as antibiotics if your child has an ear infection causing hearing loss)
  • Cochlear implants
  • Ear tubes
  • Hearing aids
  • Surgery (to correct issues with the structure of the outer or middle ears)
  • Speech therapy

Whatever their age, if you suspect that your child may have a hearing loss, it’s crucial that you address it right away. This will help to avoid it interfering with their development, academics and social life as they get older.

With you on your journey to better hearing.

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