"Any degree of hearing loss, even mild, can place children at risk," says Bruce Tomblin. "Our study shows that the risk can be minimized with early and aggressive intervention." (Credit: iStockphoto)

children's health

Early services pay off for hard-of-hearing kids

Children with mild to severe hearing loss, as a group, have poorer language development than their hearing peers, and that impact of hearing loss on language increases as the amount of hearing loss increases.

But many hard-of-hearing children who receive optimal, early services are able to “catch up” or significantly close the gaps with their hearing peers, new research suggests.

Hearing well impacts every area of a child’s life—language and speech development, social skills, and future academic and personal achievement.

Yet little research has been conducted that focuses on infants and preschoolers with mild to severe hearing loss to determine what support or services will help them succeed.

[Baby babble catches up after cochlear implants]

A large-scale longitudinal study followed children ranging in age from six months to seven years old who experienced mild to severe hearing loss.

Providing children with well-fitting hearing aids is associated with better rates of language development, but more than half of children’s hearing aids don’t fit optimally, limiting the amount of access children have to speech information through a hearing aid.

“Audiologists for a long time have been able to put these children in a test booth and show that, yes, these kids hear better when they have hearing aids on than when they don’t have them on,” says Bruce Tomblin, emeritus professor of communication sciences and disorders at the University of Iowa.

From this knowledge, researchers have assumed that hearing aids should be good for hard-of-hearing youth in terms of learning, speech, language, and socialization.

“Hearing well is crucial to developing linguistic skills, building social connections, and succeeding in life,” says coauthor Mary Pat Moeller, director of the Center for Childhood Deafness and the language development laboratory at Boys Town National Research Hospital. “Our research now provides strong evidence in support of these expectations.”

“The cautionary note from our research is that any degree of hearing loss, even mild, can place children at risk,” Tomblin says. “Our study shows that the risk can be minimized with early and aggressive intervention.”

The study appears in the journal Ear and Hearing.

 Source: University of Iowa

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