Ask the Expert: Language Development in Young Children

by Mindy Bennett, Director of Programs Child Care Answers

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. I realize that this is a common problem for many children so I decided to share my research with you 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 a hearing loss is detected the better. In many cases, including my granddaughter’s, the hearing loss is only temporary and if treated the child’s hearing can be completely restored. In other cases a doctor is able to teach families early intervention techniques that can be used 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:

 

 

 

 

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