Hearing loss can have significant effects on the development of a child’s speech and language skills and cause speech and language delays. When a child experiences hearing loss, the areas of the brain that are used for communication may not develop as they should. This typically results in difficulties in understanding others and speaking clearly.
In instances when hearing loss is identified early and managed effectively, the child can become a successful communicator. This process typically involves the collaboration of family members, caregivers, therapists, and healthcare professionals.
In most cases, hearing loss is diagnosed through a routine screening that occurs shortly after birth. However, some children don’t have hearing loss identified until they are falling behind in the development of their speech and language skills. Early identification and intervention typically mean a better long-term outcome for the child.
If your child is struggling to communicate effectively due to hearing loss, speech therapy can help. Connect your child with an experienced speech and language pathologist by scheduling your free introductory call today!
What Causes Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss can be caused by several events of factors, including:
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Other forms of Injuries
- Being Born Prematurely
- Genetic Factors
- Anatomical Differences
- Chromosomal Differences
- Prenatal Alcohol or Drug Use
- Medication Used in Emergency Medical Situations
In some cases, the cause of hearing loss is unable to be identified.
What Factors Influence Speech and Language Development for a Child with Hearing Loss?
All children develop differently and achieve certain milestones at varying times and in various orders. However, there are general developmental phases that most children keep to. Hearing loss can significantly affect how communication skills develop in numerous ways, including:
- The Age at Which the Hearing Loss is Identified
- Degree of Familial Support & Involvement
- Type and Severity of Hearing Loss
- Age of Amplification & Consistency of Device Use
- Type of Treatment
- Motor and Cognitive Skill Development
- Other Relevant Medical Conditions
What Are Common Speech and Language Problems for Children with Hearing Loss?
In cases of mild hearing loss in children, they may only have difficulty hearing certain sounds. If the hearing loss affects the child’s ability to hear higher sounds (referred to as high-frequency hearing loss), they may be missing sounds such as ‘s’, ‘t’, ‘sh’, ‘f’, and ‘th’. These sounds occur incredibly frequently in the English language, so this can make it very difficult for the child to understand others. They may also struggle to understand and follow directions, build their vocabularies and learn grammatical rules and structures. Their speech may also be difficult to understand as they are unable to hear the sounds they are attempting to produce.
Severe or profound hearing loss comes with even more serious challenges with speech and language. When a child is unable to hear anything at all, their brain does not receive speech and language, making it even more difficult for the child to develop these skills. It is important for children with profound or severe hearing loss to have exposure to other forms of language and communication, such as American Sign Language to ensure that they maintain the ability to learn language.
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Children with hearing loss may struggle with any or all of the following:
- Understanding and Hearing Sounds Near to Them
- Producing Speech Sounds
- Building their Vocabulary
- Forming Sentences
- Correctly Using Grammar
- Expressing Themselves Effectively
- Comprehending Speech from Others
- Following Directions
- Controlling Behaviour & Maintaining Attention
- Following Conversations
- Interacting with Peers and Forming Friendships
- Difficulty Understanding and Following Games and Rules
- Learning and Listening in the Classroom
- Learning to Read & Write
Is Auditory Processing Disorder Hearing Loss?
No, Auditory processing disorder is not a form of hearing loss. In cases of APD, the individual’s brain does not ‘hear’ sounds in a normal way. This is different from hearing loss and is not a problem related to understanding meaning.
How Can Speech Therapy Help with Hearing Loss?
Helping a child with hearing loss learn to communicate effectively must begin with the formation of a support team that includes caregivers and loved ones, medical professionals, and therapists including a speech and language pathologist. Progress is also improved when the child is able to work with caregivers on communication development at home.
To begin with a speech therapist, the child will be evaluated to identify how the hearing loss is affecting their speech and language development. Some of the things that a qualified speech therapist will focus on during speech therapy for hearing loss include:
- Helping the child and caregivers manage hearing devices, aids, or cochlear implants. Cochlear implants and hearing aids help babies and young children access and receive sound. This is incredibly important as their brains are developing rapidly and learning speech and language requires this input. While it is the role of an audiologist to provide the best device for the child and ensure that it fits and functions properly, the speech therapist can help families master the insertion and care of the device, as well as encourage and facilitate the use of them full-time.
- Selecting the appropriate speech treatment exercises and materials for the child’s age and abilities. Babies and young children benefit from a wide variety of speech therapy techniques. One of the many roles of the speech therapist is to recommend the best materials to stimulate the child and maintain their attention and participation. When a child is interested and enjoys interacting with the materials, speech therapy is more effective.
- Counseling families in regard to communication options. Each child and family is unique. It is important for speech therapists to be prepared to discuss their communication recommendations based on the hearing device the child has, what the long-term treatment plan is, and any future plans for the child, which may include cochlear implant surgery. Speech therapists are highly sensitive and dedicated to providing what will work best for the family and will make recommendations for communication treatments and strategies, such as the use of American Sign Language. Empathy and compassion for their patients and their families are essential SLP responsibilities.
If you or your child is having difficulty communicating due to hearing loss, speech therapy can help. Our experienced and qualified speech and language pathologists are waiting to connect with you. Get started by scheduling your free introductory call today!