Language problems linked to hearing loss
One in 20 children have hearing loss in one ear by the time they are 5, a condition that is largely ignored because it is considered a minor impediment to learning. A new study, however, makes it clear that hearing loss in one ear significantly impairs their ability to comprehend and use language.
The Washington University School of Medicine study found that children with hearing loss scored 10 points lower than their siblings on Oral and Written Language Scales (OWLS), a tool to mesure language comprehension and expression.
“This study should raise awareness that if children with hearing loss in one ear are having difficulties in speech or reading in school, their hearing may be part of the problem,” said says lead author Judith E. C. Lieu, MD. “Parents, educators and pediatricians shouldn’t assume that having hearing in one ear means children won’t need additional assistance.”
Lieu said that in the past hearing loss in one ear was often largely ignored. “For many years, pediatricians and educators thought that as long as children have one normal hearing ear, their speech and language would develop normally. But then a few studies began suggesting these children might have problems in school. Now our study has shown that on average, children with hearing loss in one ear have poorer oral language scores than children with hearing in both ears.”
This issue is especially important to those of us who live in a country where our children must learn more than one language. If you suspect your child may have a hearing problem, speak to his or her teacher and visit a specialist.
As Leiu points out, “the effect of hearing loss in one ear may be subtle. These children may shun large group situations because the noise overwhelms them, and they have a hard time understanding speech. They could have difficulties playing team sports because they can’t localize sound well and can’t tell who is calling to them. For them, listening takes a lot more work, and they may have to put in extra effort.”
The study will be in the June issue of the journal of Pediatrics.