Hearing Loss and Language Development in Young Children

by Mindy Bennett, former Director of Programs of Child Care Answers and current Director of Family & Community Engagement Content Manager at Child Care Aware of America

The doctors recently discovered that my 16 month old granddaughter is having hearing problems. She has fluid trapped behind her ear drums and it causes her to hear things as if she is underwater.  This has caused her to have a bit of a language delay as well as problems with her balance.  To correct this they are going to put tubes in her ears. This is a common problem for many children, so I’m sharing my research about how hearing impairments affect language development.

Children who are born with or develop a hearing loss are at risk of language delay.  It is important that parents and other caregivers carefully watch newborns and young children who have been sick to ensure that they are not experiencing any type of hearing loss.  Some signs that a child may be experiencing a hearing loss include not responding to loud noises and not responding to their parent or caregiver’s voice.  Parents may also notice that the sounds that their infant makes taper off and do not sound complete. In my granddaughters case she was actually running her words together.  When she would say I love you it actually sounded like “iloveyou.”

Children who have not received early intervention to correct or improve their hearing often struggle with their language development.  It is common for them to experience delays in both their receptive and expressive communications skills. Research shows that the gap between their language development and their peers who do not have a hearing impairment increases with the age of the children.  It is typical for a child who has not received intervention for their hearing impairment to significantly struggle academically in school across all subjects.  Research has shown that children who are identified with a hearing loss before they are six months old respond better to intervention treatments and have a significantly higher chance of developing typical communication and language skills than children who aren’t identified until they are older.

If parents suspect that their child is experiencing a hearing loss they should take their child to the doctor right away for further testing.  The sooner you detect hearing loss, the better. In many cases, including my granddaughter’s, the hearing loss is only temporary. If you treat this type of hearing loss, the child’s hearing can be completely restored. In other cases, a doctor is able to teach families early intervention techniques that they can use with their child to promote language development.


Want to know more about hearing loss and how it affects language development?  Check out these great resources:

Cover image by Flickr user Manda Creative Commons license.

3 responses on “Hearing Loss and Language Development in Young Children

  1. Jhoei

    It is really difficult for a child having hearing problems to develop his/her language because he/she needs to hear the words properly in order to say the words. Early detection really helps to treat hearing defects and it’s good to know that there are technologies that helps in treating this deficiency.

  2. Enrique Pasion

    Correct. We really need to assess the overall health of our children at the earliest age possible as early intervention, such as on hearing loss, would be a critical factor in ensuring that their language development would not be seriously impaired.

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