The earlier your child is diagnosed with a hearing impairment, the earlier he can receive services to assist in the development of speech and language skills during the critical 0-3 year-old period. Children with a hearing impairment are at a disadvantage during this time frame because much of language develops from exposure to the sounds and voices around them.
Implications of a hearing impairment during early childhood can include the following:
- A smaller base vocabulary
- Slower acquisition of words and sentence structures
- Some American English sounds are produced with a very high frequency which is harder for children with hearing impairments to hear. As a result, children with hearing impairments don’t learn these sounds.
- Difficulty hearing and/or producing the /s/, /z/, /sh/, /ch/, /f/, and /v/ sounds.
- This difficulty with hearing higher sounds may result in some difficulties with reading and writing. If your child cannot hear the sound, it can be difficult to identify the sound it makes.
The earlier your child starts therapy, the easier speech and language development will be for him. Consider a multidisciplinary team therapy approach, which will be client based and will target your child’s specific needs in vocabulary development, speech sound production, use and comprehension of advanced sentence structures, and overall academic achievement. Additional goals for therapy may include improving “mumbling,” voice modulation (speech that is too loud vs. too quiet) and social functioning. As parents, remember to capitalize on the other ways your child can learn: through vision and through touch. Modern technology has made communication through these means easier than ever. Making sure your child is using his hearing aids consistently throughout the day is also critical to ensuring speech and language development through steady sensory input.
Seek out help from your pediatrician, audiologist or speech pathologist if you have questions or concerns with your child’s hearing impairment.