Hearing Loss Doesn't Stop Kids

Hearing loss no obstacle for young children keeping up with peers

(RxWiki News) Many would expect children who lose their hearing at a young age to have a harder time learning how to talk and build their vocabulary than other children. With early intervention, however, this isn’t necessarily true.

A new study shows that children whose hearing loss is identified early have no problems with learning how to talk. These children use language at the same level as their hearing peers.

"Keep all your child's pediatrician appointments."

Anne Fulcher, a researcher at the University of Sydney, led the study to find out if young children with a wide range of hearing loss levels could keep up with or outperform their non-hearing loss-affected peers’ speech and language development.

The researchers recruited 94 children in Sydney, Australia, with hearing loss to participate in the study. The children were separated into two groups, based on when their hearing loss had been identified.

The first group of 45 children had their hearing loss recognized before they were 1 year old.

In this group, all participants had received hearing assistance by 3 months. Each child had enrolled into the same early intervention speech and language therapy program by the time they were 6 months old.

The second group of 49 children didn’t have their hearing issues identified until they were between 1 and 5 years old.

None of the children had other serious health conditions. Some of the children had received a cochlear implant by 18 months, if it was required.

Speech and language assessments were performed on the children at 3, 4 and 4 years of age. The assessments were the same as those conducted with typically developing hearing children.

The children with early-identified hearing loss did significantly better on the speech and language assessments than the children whose hearing loss had been recognized later. This was true for all ages and levels of hearing loss.

By 3 years of age, 93 percent of all early-identified children got speech assessment scores that were within the normal range for children their age. For vocabulary comprehension, 90 percent were within the normal range.

Ninety-five percent of the children whose hearing loss had been caught before one year had normal scores for receptive and expressive language.

Their successes continued two years later. By the time the early-identified children were 5 years old, 96 percent received normal scores for speech; 100 percent did for language.

The researchers found that children whose hearing loss had been detected early, even those with severe levels, “were able to ‘keep up with’ rather than ‘catch up to’ their typically hearing peers by three years of age on measures of speech and language, including children with profound hearing loss.”

“Our findings provide evidence that it is indeed possible for children with all degrees of hearing loss to achieve age-appropriate speech/language outcomes as early as three years of age and that this progress can be maintained over the subsequent two years,” the researchers concluded.

The study was published online on October 16 in the International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology. The study was funded by the University of Sydney. The authors reported no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
November 13, 2012