Do Children with Hearing Loss Have Developmental Delays?

The signs of hearing loss may be very subtle.
By
Teacher, M.Ed

Do children with hearing loss have developmental delays? For many children, the answer is yes. However, these developmental delays don't have to be permanent, and the earlier the hearing loss is discovered, the better the chances of heading off and even reversing the developmental problems that might arise.

Why Do Children With Hearing Loss Have Developmental Delays

Because hearing has such a direct bearing upon the development of language skills, a hearing loss of any kind can wreak havoc on a child's speech capabilities. This is especially true for very young children who haven't learned how to talk yet. Not only does this affect the child's ability to interact socially, but it can also severely affect a child's educational success.

Developmental delays due to hearing loss may result in the following:

  • A delay in the ability to communicate with others, which could then result in many other emotional delays as well. In some cases, children who suffer from hearing loss that has gone undetected may be mistakenly labeled with autism or even mental retardation.
  • Hearing loss in children often has a direct bearing upon how well those children achieve in the classroom. Learning problems are often prevalent. However, if a child is placed in a specific program that will provide one-on-one instruction, along with a variety of teaching and learning aids, a child can excel in the classroom.
  • Social isolation is often a common result of hearing loss among children. This can also lead to poor self-esteem, which may follow a child into adulthood.
  • Kids with hearing loss often feel that their career choices are limited. However, with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, programs and services provided by state and local governments, goods and services..., a child should not be raised to believe that his options are limited by his disability.

The Facts About Hearing Loss

While the question do children with hearing loss have developmental delays is a complex one because the extent of the hearing loss will have a direct bearing on the seriousness of the developmental problems, there are some common facts involved.

  • Children with hearing loss typically develop a vocabulary at a slower pace. While simple words may be easy for these children to master, it can be much more difficult for kids to understand words which have multiple meanings or to discern between concrete and abstract words.
  • Other vocabulary problems are commonly prevalent in kids who suffer from hearing loss, such as sentence structure and grammar usage, including subject-verb agreement and verb tense.
  • Children who essentially were born with a hearing loss or who developed it at a very young age typically have speech problems as well. These children may not be able to hear certain speech sounds, and thus may leave these signs out of their speech patterns. They may also have difficulty adjusting their voice to a normal level or pitch of sound as well.
  • Developmental delays can cause children to fall behind their peers in academic achievement and social growth. Without help, these developmental delays can become more pronounced as a child progresses through school.

How to Get Help

When your baby is first born, your pediatrician will expect you to bring her for several scheduled visits throughout the first years of her life. He will monitor her developmental growth in a variety of areas, and these areas include hearing and speech development. While obviously you should listen to your pediatrician's advice, if you feel that something isn't right with your child, insist on another check-up. If you aren't satisfied with the results, it may be time to search for a new doctor. On the other hand, if your child's doctor suggests that your child sees a specialist, don't argue. His suspicions may be valid.

Because children with hearing loss typically do have developmental delays, it is imperative that your child be diagnosed as soon as possible. In most cases, your doctor will recommend an audiologist, who will test your child for hearing problems. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is a professional Website that lists professional audiologists and speech-language pathologists. It also publishes a variety of articles and maintains numerous online forums as well.

There Is Hope

With today's high-powered hearing aids, FM systems, and cochlear implants, even profoundly deaf children are learning to speak. Your child's individual speaking abilities and potential will vary depending on several factors, including the cause of the hearing impairment, method of amplification, and type of speech therapy. Many hearing impaired children are eventually able to catch up to their hearing peers in speech development.

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