Robin Best, M.A., C.C.C., P.A.

Hearing Loss and How It Affects Speech and Language

Deafness and Hearing impairments cause a great deal of confusion in the communicative process. This is most evident prior to being diagnosed as having a hearing deficit.

There are some signals that may be indicative of a hearing impairment. One such signal may be the extreme loudness or quietness of someone’s speaking voice. Another symptom of a hearing loss could be putting the television, radio or music on especially loud. Avoiding the use of the telephone or having trouble understanding people on the telephone may also reveal insufficient hearing. When someone asks you to repeat information over and over or answers a simple question incorrectly these are also signs of a possible hearing impairment. Being dizzy, having trouble with balance, and ringing of the ears are also evidence of something going on in the inner or middle ear canal.

School is underway and many children will get ear infections. Chronic ear infections can cause difficulty with hearing. While hearing may be screened at normal ranges there could be variability of hearing causing confusion. Build up in ear wax, fluid in the ear and other obstructions in the ear could also interfere with the integrity of what is being heard. Chronic ear infections are one of the more common reasons for youngsters requiring speech and language therapy in the formative years. Those interruptions in hearing often adversely effect the development of speech and language.

Schools and pediatricians will often screen for pure tones. The screening levels are often considered normal with levels as high as 25dB. Many children hear at levels of -10dB to 15dB. These children will go undetected if they have a screening with levels acceptable at 25dB. Tympanometry is also a very important measuring tool for measuring middle ear pressure. This needs to be monitored for those individuals that have chronic problems with ear infections; sinus issues, fluid build up, and impacted ear wax. When doing hearing screening, tympanometry measurements could also identify these difficulties that exist before the symptoms exhibit themselves.

When the hearing tests are done in the schools or the pediatrician’s office, the examiner has not necessarily been specially trained in the area of hearing measurements. If there is any concern at all about hearing, please go to an audiologist and have pure tone threshold, speech discrimination and middle ear testing done. An audiologist has been educated and trained specifically to test hearing and help those that need of hearing devices.

There are many hearing devices that are available to those that have a more permanent hearing loss. Hearing aids and voice amplification devices have been created to be used on the phone and in classrooms are available. The technology developed in recent years in nothing short of amazing. There are even ear molds that can be made for swimmers to avoid getting swimmers ear or for musicians trying to avoid getting a noise induced hearing loss.

Hearing is vital to the development of speech and language. The sooner a hearing difficulty is diagnosed and treated the better the prognosis is for the acquisition of speech and language.