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Hearing Loss: How It Affects Communication

How Does Hearing Loss Affect Communication?

Hearing loss can affect a child’s development of speech and language skills. When a child has difficulty hearing, the areas of the brain used for communication may not develop appropriately. This makes understanding and talking very difficult.

When hearing loss is identified early and managed appropriately, the child can become an effective communicator. This process involves caregivers and professionals working together.

Most hearing loss is identified through a screening at birth. Some children are not diagnosed until later, when speech or language skills are not progressing. Earlier identification and management of hearing loss results in better outcomes for the child.

We also know that parents and caregivers are essential in the diagnosis and intervention process.

What Can Cause a Hearing Loss?

Hearing loss can be a result of numerous factors or events. These include:

  • Genetic factors
  • Chromosomal differences
  • Anatomical differences
  • Syndromes
  • Prenatal drug or alcohol use
  • Medication used in serious medical situations
  • Prematurity
  • Illness or injury
  • Unknown/unexplained factors

What Factors Influence Speech and Language Development for a Child with Hearing Loss?

All children are different in how they develop. There are developmental stages that most children follow. Hearing loss can affect how communication develops in many ways. These include:

  • Age at identification of the hearing loss
  • Family involvement and support
  • Type and degree of hearing loss
  • Age of amplification
  • Consistency of device use
  • Type of treatment (early intervention, direct therapy, school-based therapy)
  • Cognitive and motor skill level
  • Other medical conditions

What Are Speech and Language Challenges for Children with Hearing Loss?

Children with hearing loss may have difficulty with:

  • Hearing and understanding sounds around them
  • Making speech sounds
  • Learning new words
  • Putting together sentences
  • Using correct grammar
  • Effectively expressing themselves
  • Understanding speech from other people
  • Following directions in quiet and noisy places
  • Paying attention and controlling behavior
  • Following conversations with multiple people
  • Making friends and interacting with peers. This can be caused by difficulty understanding games, rules and directions.
  • Listening and learning in the classroom
  • Learning to read

What Can Help the Children and Caregivers Succeed?

Treatment for a child with hearing loss starts with a partnership. Children with hearing loss make the most progress when caregivers and professionals work together. They also make progress when caregivers work with the child at home.

The child should have a speech-language evaluation to see how the hearing loss is impacting their development. Speech and language therapy may be needed. The speech-language pathologist and family will work together in therapy. The focus of therapy will be to develop communication skills.

The speech-language pathologist will likely add listening games into the session. Listening skills are important for progress in therapy. The use of strategies with your child at home will help speech, language and listening skills develop.

Why Are Caregivers So Important in Their Child’s Success?

We know that bringing your child to therapy won’t “fix” their speech or language difficulties. We actively engage caregivers to partner with us in therapy. As caregivers, please:

  • Actively participate in therapy with your child. Parents and caregivers are the child’s best supports and teachers.
  • Ask questions if something is unclear. The speech-language pathologist will take time to talk about your questions.
  • Use speech and language strategies learned in your session with your child every day.
  • Keep noise to a minimum. This will help your child hear important information clearly.
  • Make sure you have your child’s attention before talking with them. Make sure they heard you by watching their actions and responses.
  • Read books daily to help build your child’s vocabulary and language.

Online Resources

For More Information

Contact the Division of Speech-Language Pathology at 513-636-4341 or visit our website.

Last Updated 11/2023

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