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Published on: 3 July 2015

Effects of Hearing Loss on Development

It is well recognized that hearing is critical to speech and language development, communication, and learning.

Effects of Hearing Loss on Development

Children with listening difficulties due to hearing loss or auditory processing problems continue to be an under-identified and underserved population.
The earlier hearing loss occurs in a child's life, the more serious the effects on the child's development. Similarly, the earlier the problem is identified and intervention begun, the less serious the ultimate impact.

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

  1. It causes delay in the development of receptive and expressive communication skills (speech and language).
  2. The language deficit causes learning problems that result in reduced academic achievement.
  3. Communication difficulties often lead to social isolation and poor self-concept.
  4. It may have an impact on vocational choices.

Specific Effects: Vocabulary

  • Vocabulary develops more slowly in children who have hearing loss.
  • Children with hearing loss learn concrete words like cat, jump, five, and red more easily than abstract words like before, after, equal to, and jealous. They also have difficulty with function words like the, an, are, and a.
  • The gap between the vocabulary of children with normal hearing and those with hearing loss widens with age. Children with hearing loss do not catch up without intervention.

Special Effects: Sentence Structure

  • Children with hearing loss comprehend and produce shorter and simpler sentences than children with normal hearing.
  • Children with hearing loss often have difficulty understanding and writing complex sentences, such as those with relative clauses ("The teacher whom I have for math was sick today.") or passive voice ("The ball was thrown by Mary.")
  • Children with hearing loss often cannot hear word endings such as -s or -ed. This leads to misunderstandings and misuse of verb tense, pluralization, non-agreement of subject and verb, and possessives.

Special Effects: Speaking

  • Children with hearing loss often cannot hear quiet speech sounds such as "s," "sh," "f," "t," and "k" and therefore do not include them in their speech. Thus, speech may be difficult to understand.
  • Children with hearing loss may not hear their own voices when they speak. They may speak too loudly or not loud enough. They may have a speaking pitch that is too high. They may sound like they are mumbling because of poor stress, poor inflection, or poor rate of speaking.

Special Effects: Academic Achievement

  • Children with hearing loss have difficulty with all areas of academic achievement, especially reading and mathematical concepts.
  • The gap in academic achievement between children with normal hearing and those with hearing loss usually widens as they progress through school.
  • The level of achievement is related to parental involvement and the quantity, quality, and timing of the support services children receive.

What You Can Do?

Hearing is critical for the development of speech, language, communication skills, and learning. The earlier that hearing loss occurs in a child's life, the more serious is the effect on the child's development. Similarly, the earlier the hearing loss is identified and intervention begun, the more likely it is that the delays in speech and language development will be diminished. Recent research indicates that children identified with hearing loss who begin services before 6 months old can develop language (spoken or signed) on a par with their hearing peers.

Hearing in children
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