hearing impairment on communication

How does hearing impact speech and language development?

Posted on
December 15, 2022
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Babies hearing is often screened within hours of their birth, and then again in reception.  Parents and caregivers are essential in the diagnosis and intervention process. Some things to look out for include frequent colds and ear infections, your child having difficulty understanding you, listening to the television very loudly, or speaking loudly and needing to repeat what you have said frequently. In this blog, we will explore what hearing difficulties include and how it can impact speech and language development.

What causes hearing loss?

Hearing loss can be the result of prematurity, genetic factors, anatomical difficulties, part of a syndrome or illness, as well as unexplained. A hearing impairment is a hearing loss that prevents a person from totally receiving sounds through the ear. A hearing impairment may affect a child's speech language and communication skills.

The extent of the hearing loss can vary depending on several influential factors such as, age at identified hearing loss, engagement of parents with health services, the type of hearing loss and degree of hearing loss, the child cognitive and motor skills and other medical conditions. 

Two types of deafness:

  1. Sensori-neural deafness, or nerve deafness as it is sometimes called, is a hearing loss in the inner ear.
  2. Conductive deafness means that sound cannot pass through the outer and middle ear into the inner ear. This is often caused by blockages such as wax in the outer ear or fluid in the middle ear (glue ear).

Hearing plays a crucial role when helping children learn language. 

child's hearing
Monitor your child's hearing for communication

Hearing loss can lead to:

  • lower self esteem
  • having trouble making friends
  • learning difficulties in school and delayed speech and language skills

Children with hearing loss may have problems hearing sounds clearly. There are quiet sounds such as /s, sh, f, t and  k/ which are harder for children to hear. Not hearing these sounds will impact on the child’s ability to use those sounds and grasp them in phonics. Your child may mishear how words are pronounced and therefore develop speech error patterns. If these errors persist, they can become a habit, a child can get used to saying a word a certain way and therefore the error can become ingrained and harder to change. Difficulties with these sounds will also impact the child’s ability to apply grammatical rules as they haven’t heard them correctly. Possession e.g. Daniel’s, plurals (cats) and irregular verb tenses (took). 

Hearing loss will also impact on the child’s social skills and therefore impact their participation in a social situation which can have a ripple effect on the child’s self-esteem. A child with hearing loss may lack awareness of how they speak. They may be too loud or they may speak too quietly, which will have an impact on your child’s audience of listeners.

Children who have hearing loss do not learn as words as fast as children without hearing loss. 

What you can do to help if your child has a hearing loss?

  • It's important to inform all the people working with your child that your child has a hearing loss. Teachers can think about where the best place for your child to sit at circle time or which desk is away from additional background noise such as a computer, air conditioning machine and a window. 
  • It may be helpful for your child, if people communicating with your child, talk at the child’s level where the child can clearly see their face. 
  • We want to avoid children being labelled as stubborn or rude when they have not reacted and responded to the people around them.
  • Always get your child’s attention before talking to them either by touch or saying their name until they're looking at you.
  • Reduce the amount of background noise when talking, by turning off the radio or the TV.
  • Speak in short and simple sentences, using gesture and appropriate facial expressions to convey your meaning.
  • Be patient, your child may become more frustrated at not being able to hear and understand repeat what you need to say if necessary.
  • Pre teaching core vocabulary can be helpful for a child with hearing difficulties to participate in the classroom.
  • When providing your child with lots of information pause, and ask them for clarification, to check they have understood. 

If you have any concerns with your child’s hearing, you can always go your local doctor or audiologist to check your child’s hearing. We're here to support you and any questions you may have.

Debbie Cohen
Speech and Language Therapist
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