The Effect of Hearing Loss on a Child’s Development

1_KidThe relationship between hearing and development of communications skills has long been recognized, but the developmental issues caused by that lack of communication skills goes deeper than simply speech and language. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)*, hearing loss can be at the root of such things as poor academic achievement, poor self-esteem, and may factor into career choices. Specifically, these things are impacted due to:


Children with hearing loss experience slower vocabulary development and often experience difficulty with abstract words such as before and after, function words such as the and are, and multi-meaning words such as bank (a place for money or the edge of a stream).

Sentence Structure

Children with hearing loss typically understand and use shorter sentences and have trouble speaking and understanding longer and more complex sentences. Many also cannot hear words ending in s or ed which leads to grammatical difficulties.


Since many kids with hearing loss do not hear certain sounds, those sounds do not become part of their vocabularies making words that include those sounds hard to recognize. In addition, since many of them cannot hear their own voices they may not be aware that they are speaking too loudly, too softly, or are mumbling.


Non-hearing students experience an increased number of challenges in school, specifically in the areas of reading and mathematical concepts. It’s not unusual for them to be performing at substantially lower grade levels than their hearing peers.


Many non-hearing children report feelings of isolation and of not having friends due to hearing loss related inability to socialize.

There are, however, things that can be done to lessen the impact of hearing loss in these areas of a child’s life. According to the ASHA, the early diagnosis and start of needed services may help a child keep up with his/her peers developmentally. Hearing loss may not be as obvious in a child as in an adult but according to MedLinePlus**, there are certain signs of hearing loss in young children:

  • Infants may not startle at the sound of an unexpected noise.
  • Older infants may not respond to familiar voices or react when spoken to.
  • Toddlers not using single words by 15 months and simple two word sentences by the age of 2.
  • A school aged child that falls behind his/her classmates academically.

Any of these may indicate a loss of hearing, and warrant a trip to the doctor for testing. Once diagnosed, a treatment plan is devised based on the child’s health and the cause of the hearing loss, and may include such things as speech therapy, learning sign language, and cochlear implants. The cause, if treatable, will also be addressed.

As scary as all this is, according to MedLinePlus, with early diagnosis and treatment the child may suffer little to no developmental delays. The key is early detection and treatment. So watch for signs early on (especially in the case of a family history of hearing loss), and make a doctor’s appointment if any hearing loss symptoms appear.

Tricia Doane, FizzNiche Staff Writer

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