Language and speech delays are two separate issues, but they also overlap in some ways. Speech delays impact the ability to make clear and understandable sounds related to speaking. Language delays impact the ability to use words and sentences to communicate ideas. Both language and speech delays may occur when hearing loss is present in children.
Language and speech delays are two separate issues, but they also overlap in some ways. Speech delays impact the ability to make clear and understandable sounds related to speaking. Language delays impact the ability to use words and sentences to communicate ideas. Both language and speech delays may occur when hearing loss is present.
Hearing loss can result in speech delays due to mishearing or not hearing certain sounds. Articulating specific sounds (p, b, d, sh, th, etc.) becomes much more difficult when a child can’t hear those sounds well. One sound may be substituted for another, or it may be completely replaced by an unrelated sound. The result: difficult-to-understand speech.
While they may be able to pronounce words accurately, children may not be able to put together longer sentences or transfer more complex ideas into speech. When a child is unable to hear others articulate their thoughts, their ability to do so for themselves is be delayed or impaired. The result: an inhibited vocabulary and a deficit in the tools necessary for natural communication.
Speech delays are caused by more than just hearing loss, as are language delays. But the effects hearing loss can have on academic performance are significant when it is not treated properly. In fact, untreated hearing loss can result in severe learning disorders that last through adulthood. There are four areas that professionals see the most damaging effects of hearing loss: delayed use of words and sentences, social isolation, difficulty understanding and communicating with others, and significant grade-level deficits.
By the age of 2, most children should be using multiple-word sentences or phrases, along with a vocabulary of around 50 words. Hearing loss, however, can limit a child’s knowledge and use of words. Likewise, a hearing-impaired child may not be able to form more complex sentences. This type of language and speech delay can affect pre-reading skills greatly.
Without the ability to communicate clearly and effectively, many children will experience loneliness, frustration, and anger when spending time with their peers. They may not be able to speak well enough to be understood. They may also struggle to hear and understand the conversations around them, which leads to difficulty building relationships.
School settings rely greatly on clear communication. Even reading and writing become difficult when hearing loss is the source of language and speech delays. Tasks and assignments that require strong communication skills may feel nearly impossible to someone who struggles with hearing loss.
Learning difficulties become a significant concern as children grow. Hearing loss-related speech delays and language deficits could result in losses of up to four grade levels in reading and math. The disparity between age and achievement only grows greater as children with untreated hearing loss grow older. And this is with only mild to moderate hearing loss. With severe hearing loss, these language and speech delays could permanently limit a child’s abilities to 3rd- or 4th-grade levels if left unaddressed.
As we mentioned above, speech delays and language development issues start early and become more severe as children get older. With this in mind, here are some steps you can take to ensure your child doesn’t experience speech delays or learning difficulties:
A hearing test with an audiologist can help detect concerns and prevent language and speech delays long before learning problems occur. Our screenings are stress-free, even for infants and toddlers. If you are concerned about your child’s language and speech development, or if you simply want to make sure your child’s hearing is healthy, we have the tools and expertise to give you peace of mind. Schedule an appointment online to keep your child’s hearing healthy for learning!