Speech and language acquisition are closely linked to hearing ability and toddlers with ear problems are likely to experience some degree of speech delays. If your toddler is experiencing a speech delay, hearing issues might be contributing to his problems. The significance of his speech delay will likely vary depending on the severity of his hearing loss or other ear problems he has experienced.
1. Persistent Ear Infections
If your toddler has been treated multiple times for ear infections or struggles with prolonged ear infections, she might be at risk for a speech delay. While the occasional ear infection is unlikely to cause your child to have a speech delay, prolonged fluid accumulation can muffle sounds she hears and make it difficult for her to pick up language at a normal rate, according to a New York Times article. Some doctors recommend the placement of ear tubes to drain fluid in the ear to try to encourage speech development.
2. Mild Hearing Loss
Hearing is a critical component in speech development. If your child was born with a mild hearing loss or experienced a mild loss after birth, he might experience a delay in speech, according to KidsHealth. Even a slight hearing loss will make it more difficult for your toddler to understand speech and learn to articulate, potentially leading to significant speech delays, reports the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Your child will likely benefit from special services such as speech therapy so he can catch up with peers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.
3. Profound Hearing Loss
If your child was born profoundly deaf, early intervention will give her the best chance of learning to communicate effectively through gestures and sign language, according to the Heuser Hearing Institute. Profoundly deaf toddlers do not hear any parts of speech, although some can pick up sound vibration. A medical intervention such as a cochlear implant or hearing aid might improve your child's hearing and improve speech development, although therapeutic services will still likely be necessary.
4. Processing Disorder
According to the California Ear Institute, toddlers with sensory processing disorders are easily overstimulated by everyday sights, sounds and movement. If your toddler has been diagnosed with a sensory processing disorder, she might find it difficult to distinguish sounds from other sensory input or find it difficult to process language, slowing her speech and language development, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association reports.
- KidsHealth: Causes of Delayed Speech or Language
- American Speech-Language-Hearing Association: Effects of Hearing Loss on Development
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Building Languages
- Ear Infections? Think Twice Before Inserting a Tube
- Heuser Hearing Institute: Hearing Loss
- California Ear Institute: Sensory Processing Disorder
- American Speech-Language-Hearing Association: Understanding Auditory Processing Disorders in Children
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