How Hearing Can Affect Speech & Language

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How Hearing Can Affect Speech & Language

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by Penny L. Cohen, M.A., CCC-SLP

It is well known that hearing is critical to speech and language development, social development and academic learning. Some of the specific areas affected include:

Vocabulary, Auditory Processing and Expressive Language – this develops more slowly in children who have hearing loss.
Syntax/Grammar - shorter and simpler sentences than hearing peers
Articulation - speech may be difficult to understand due to difficulty hearing high frequency speech sounds such as "s," "sh," "f," "t," and "k".
Voice - may speak too loudly or quietly with a pitch that is too high or low.
Academic Achievement - often have difficulty with all reading and language.
Social Development  - often have difficulty making friends and socializing.

As a Speech and Language Pathologist in the San Diego area, I have 28 years of experience working with children, teens and adults experiencing communication defecits. On a personal note, I never realized how much hearing affected speech until I began working with a bright, young boy at the age of 6 on his articulation. As I worked with him I noticed that over a six month period, while he was extremely motivated to learn and improve, he was not making the progress expected. I asked the parents to have his hearing rechecked and they found a significant sensorineural hearing loss bilaterally, hardly hearing in either ear. Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the inner ear or the auditory nerve pathways and is a permanent loss. They initially tried hearing aids, but improvement was slow, so the decision was made to try a cochlear implant in his right ear. At his first speech therapy session after his implant I pulled out musical instruments and asked him to identify the instruments. He did well until it came to the rain stick where he couldn’t identify the sound. When I told him it was the sound of the rain, he looked at me and said, “Wow, I never heard the rain before”. Since that time he has made excellent progress and is 95 percent intelligible. He's a strong athletic 12 year old boy, excelling in sports and academics. He is social, has many friends and is very happy.

What You Can Do

The earlier hearing loss occurs in a child's life, the more serious the effects on the child's development. Similarly, the earlier the problem is identified and intervention begun, the less serious the ultimate impact. Children who begin services early may be able to develop language at the same level as their hearing peers. An audiologist, as part of an interdisciplinary team of professionals, will evaluate your child and suggest the most appropriate audiologic intervention program. Speech and language therapy is imperative to ensure clear articulation and age appropriate expressive and receptive language development.


About the Author : Penny L. Cohen is a licensed, certified Speech and Language Pathologist and Therapist with 28 years of experience in a variety of settings in the San Diego and La Jolla areas. She now has a private practice where she specializes in assessing and treating children, teens and adults with difficulties ranging from articulation disorders, language comprehension and auditory processing issues, expressive language and social communication disorders, as well as voice, fluency/stuttering, tongue thrust and accent reduction. For more helpful tips, developmental charts or to find out more visit  :   www.PennyCohenSpeech.com


11 December 2013 15:44
by Penny L. Cohen, M.A., CCC-SLP