Nearly 15% of school-age children and teens (ages 6-19) have some degree of hearing loss according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Hearing loss reduces a person’s capacity to detect and process speech as well as sound. This produces multifaceted effects including speech and language delays. These developmental delays can cause challenges with learning and reading. Recent studies highlight a correlation between hearing loss and reading difficulties in children. Recognizing the signs of hearing loss and seeking treatment offers tremendous benefits including transforming hearing health and supporting childhood development.
Link Between Hearing Loss & Reading Challenges
Existing research established a link between hearing loss and reading challenges. Studies show that children with hearing loss are more likely to experience learning difficulties including reading comprehension. One study that examines this relationship involved 195 students, ages 8-10, who experienced reading challenges. 29 students had a history of recurring ear infections and 36 students had dyslexia. Tests were administered to evaluate reading and writing skills as well as speech comprehension. Researchers reevaluated these students 18 months later as well as conducted hearing tests to assess hearing capacities. Key findings from this study include:
- 25% of the children were experiencing mild or moderate hearing loss that parents, as well as teachers, were unaware of.
- 9 of the 36 children with dyslexia and one-third of the students with recurring ear infections were experiencing some degree of hearing loss.
These findings highlight that hearing loss can significantly increase the risk of experiencing learning challenges. Researchers found that these hearing challenges caused the kids to experience issues with speech sounds, perception of spoken language, and grammatical word structure.
Recognizing Signs of Hearing Loss
In the study, parents and teachers were completely unaware that their kids were experiencing hearing loss. This highlights that 25% of the kids in the study were navigating undiagnosed hearing loss. It is important to be able to recognize the signs of hearing loss so you can intervene and seek treatment as soon as possible. Common signs include:
- Tinnitus: a buzzing or ringing-like noise in the ears.
- Sounds are distorted or muffled.
- Frequently saying “huh” or “what” in response to what is being said.
- Asking others to repeat themselves, speak louder, or slower.
- Increasing the volume on electronic devices like the TV or phone.
- Experiencing learning difficulties in the classroom.
- Speech, learning, and vocabulary development delays.
- Missing parts of what is being said, experiencing confusion during a conversation.
- Lip reading to help identify words.
- Trouble following directions.
- Seeming distracted, inattentive, lost in the classroom.
These symptoms can be mild to more profound depending on the degree of hearing loss present. It is useful to know that hearing loss in kids can be confused for other things like learning disabilities or behavioral issues. This is why it is especially important to have hearing health assessed for kids regularly.
Diagnosing & Treating Hearing Loss
The first step towards treating hearing loss is to have hearing assessed. Hearing tests are conducted by hearing healthcare specialists and are painless. A hearing test involves a noninvasive process that measures hearing capacity in both ears. Depending on the child’s age, different diagnostic tools could be used including:
- Visual reinforcement audiometry (VRA) is a type of test that evaluates hearing for infants as young as 6 months. This involves playing sounds to assess if the infant turns their head towards the sound.
- for toddlers and preschoolers: a common test used is known as play audiometry. This involves asking the child to perform a task when they hear a specific sound.
- older kids: by a certain age, kids can have their hearing assessed the way adults typically do. This involves listening to sounds through headphones and indicating the sounds you can hear.
These hearing tests identify hearing loss and the degree of impairment. Once hearing needs are established, your hearing healthcare provider can recommend an effective treatment option. Hearing loss is most commonly treated with hearing aids – a medical device that is designed to absorb, amplify, and process sound. Hearing aids alleviate hearing loss symptoms and maximize hearing capacity. This offers countless benefits including strengthening communication, health, and learning capacity.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing consultation.