Hearing Loss in Children:
A Hypothetical Example

Contrary to popular belief, hearing loss is not an age-specific condition. In fact, a surprising number of children suffer from auditory impairment of various degrees. The younger the child is at the onset of this condition, the more severe the possible ramifications. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), there are four major ways in which hearing loss affects children:
  • It causes delay in the development of receptive and expressive communication skills (speech and language).
  • The language deficit causes learning problems that result in reduced academic achievement.
  • Communication difficulties often lead to social isolation and poor self-concept.
  • It may have an impact on vocational choices.
Let's follow a hypothetical example of a male first-grader. This young boy suffers from moderate hearing damage (the cause is not important here) and has trouble processing information such as class lessons or teacher instructions. He has no problem with vocabulary words that have concrete examples, such as "building," "cinema" and "automobile" but has trouble with abstract concepts and vocab words, such as "envy," "concentrate" and "before."

When he speaks, this student uses much simpler words and sentence structures than his counterparts and has difficulty with subject/verb agreement, tense and possessives. Sometimes he speaks too loud…other times too soft. Either way, teachers and classmates find it hard to understand him.

The tribulations spill over from the classroom to the playground. Feeling academically inferior to other students causes him to withdraw from social settings. He has trouble making friends and does not enjoy school. His isolation results in frustration, educational deficiencies and behavioral problems.

Without intervention by a skilled professional, it is unlikely that our imaginary student will ever catch up (socially or academically) to his classmates. His hearing damage will contribute to a lifetime of difficulties that some will understand and others will exacerbate.

In cases where hearing loss or damage is caused by genetics or injury, it might be difficult, if not impossible, to avoid this scenario. But, in cases where hearing loss is noise-induced, the fate of this little boy could have been different.

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