hearing loss

Hearing Loss and Its Effects on Speech and Language Development

By Yomna Elsiddig, speech-language pathologist; Calyn Russ, audiologist; and Lori Wagner, speech-language pathologist, Providence Speech and Hearing Center

Have you ever noticed that our lives are never truly silent? If you think about it, we are surrounded by a range of sounds we’ve grown accustomed to tuning out: the air conditioner humming, doors closing, pens clicking. Now think about the conversations in your world: on the television or radio, in the next room, a mother reading to her child nearby.

Children with hearing impairments aren’t just missing out on environmental sounds- substantial language exposure and incidental learning are also absent. A child’s speech and language development is highly dependent on his ability to hear. Resulting developmental delays depend on how early the hearing loss occurred and how quickly intervention takes place. It is best to see a specialist as soon as a concern is identified. This is where speech-language pathologists and audiologists can help. Early intervention is designed to:

  • Identify hearing loss, as well as speech and language disorders, as early as possible, that impact development of communication, reading, writing, and social skills
  • Help speech-delayed children catch up to their peers through individualized treatment plans and therapy
  • Teach parents tools and techniques to help encourage communication and language development in their children

There are varying degrees and causes of hearing loss. It could be a temporary challenge or a permanent loss. Consequences on speech and language development include limited language skills such as a smaller vocabulary and speaking in short and simple sentences, as well as decreased speech intelligibility.

Children with hearing loss have difficulty hearing higher frequency sounds like those in the letters ’s’, ‘f’, ‘sh’, ‘t’, or ‘k’ as well as speech markers like nasality in ‘m’ or ‘n.’ Because we speak what we hear, these sounds and markers are missing from their own speech. These children also have difficulty hearing the ends of words where grammatical information is found (plural –s, possessive –s, past tense –ed).

CHOC and Providence Speech and Hearing Center collaborate with families to address any speech therapy and advanced audiology services to best meet a patient’s needs. Speak to your pediatrician about a referral to a speech-language pathologist and/or audiologist.

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