If you have ever had a speech and language assessment for your child, you will most likely have had THE hearing and ear infection questions; Does your child get frequent ear infections?”, “Has your child had a recent hearing assessment?”  Why are the answers to these questions so important?

It is well recognized that hearing is critical to speech and language development.  Children learn to talk by listening to speech.  If you can’t hear the specific sounds, you will not say them.  If you can’t hear the vocabulary, you won’t understand or use those specific words.  Hearing loss can impact; vocabulary, sentence structure, speaking(speech sounds), academic achievement, and social functioning.  A fluctuating hearing loss due to repeated ear infections might mean the child doesn’t hear consistently and may be missing out on critical information. Permanent hearing loss will also affect speech and language development, especially if it is not detected early.

Recent research indicates that children identified with a hearing loss who begin services early may be able to develop language (spoken and/or signed) on par with their hearing peers.

Parents often assume their child can hear because when they call their name, they turn.  Yes, your child heard A noise, however, the precise sounds may have been missed and words sound muffled or are misinterpreted.  If you have normal hearing, you may not realize, each sound has a different frequency/pitch which can be missed based on the specific hearing loss.

 

The “SPEECH BANANA” shows various sounds and where they fall on the frequency/pitch scale.

speech-banana

Some signs that your child might have a hearing loss include

•Your child is inconsistently responding to sound.

•Language and speech development is delayed.

•Speech is unclear.

•Sound is turned up on electronic equipment (radio, TV, CD player).

•Your child does not follow directions.

•Your child often says, “Huh?”

•Your child does not respond when called. *Even if they do respond by turning their head, they may have missed parts of the message.

How early can my child’s hearing be tested?

Hearing can be tested at any age. Universal Newborn Hearing Screenings are conducted in the hospital within the first few days of a newborn’s life and can indicate if a child’s hearing is normal or if a potential hearing loss may exist and further testing is warranted. If you have concerns with your child’s hearing, have their hearing checked again as many things can change over the course of a few months and years from when your child was born. Young infants can be tested while they are sleeping, and older infants and toddlers are tested using a combination of play-based activities and more objective test measures.

Can ear infections cause hearing loss?

Fifty percent of all children have had at least one middle ear infection (otitis media) by their first birthday. Otitis media is an inflammation of the middle ear and is often accompanied by fluid in the middle ear space. Fluid in the ear makes it difficult for sound waves to reach the inner ear (cochlea). Depending on the amount and thickness of fluid in the ear, hearing loss can range from minimal to moderate. Speech may be muffled or distorted and difficult to hear, especially if any background noise is in the room.  This type of hearing loss is generally temporary and normal hearing is restored as the child’s ear infection clears up and the fluid disappears.  Tubes sometimes are recommended to help drain the fluid if it remains.

If you are concerned, have your child’s hearing assessed by an Audiologist, or at minimum, discuss your concerns with your doctor or Speech Pathologist.  Speech Pathologists are an important part of the intervention process for your child’s delayed speech and language skills.  We are here to help!

If you would like more information about the Infant Hearing Program this link has some great information.

References:
http://www.asha.org/public/hearing/Effects-of-Hearing-Loss-on-Development/
http://www.chsc.org/Main/Speech-Language-Development-with-Hearing-Loss.aspx

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