I’ll never forget the day I brought my 2 year old son in for a hearing screening because his articulation just sounded a little “off” to me. The audiologist told me, “Ben has a bilateral conductive hearing loss.” I thought…What?! How can that be? He talks and is developing his speech and language skills on time! He responds to his name when I call him and follows my directions most of the time. Even as a speech pathologist, this news rocked my world and I couldn’t believe that I had not detected it sooner.
CONDUCTIVE HEARING LOSS
A conductive hearing loss is a type of hearing loss that is caused by an abnormality in the middle or outer ear, which then does not allow the middle or outer ear to properly function.
WHAT CAUSES A CONDUCTIVE HEARING LOSS?
Fluid in the middle ear is the most common cause. However, it can also be caused by trauma to the eardrum or ossicles in the middle ear. Lastly, it could be a result of excessive ear wax buildup.
CAN A CONDUCTIVE HEARING LOSS BE FIXED?
Most of the time it can be fixed by medications or surgery. Many times children who have excessive and recurring fluid in the ears will have PE tubes inserted to help the fluid drain more efficiently.
HEARING IS A PREREQUISITE TO TALKING
In order for your child to begin to speak they must first be able to hear. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association states that two in every 100 children will experience some sort of hearing loss. Hearing loss may be congenital, accidental, health-related or commonly caused by ear infections.
Let’s talk about ear infections. Some kiddos only get one ear infection ever, whereas some poor souls can’t seem to go a month without getting another one. An ear infection, also known as otitis media, is when an infection in the ear causes fluid to build up in the middle ear. This middle ear fluid can then lead to varying degrees of conductive hearing loss and can sometimes distort sound like you are underwater. If this is happening over and over again then most likely your little one is not clearly hearing the words you say or the sounds you articulate and thus cannot properly learn make these sounds.
Hearing loss can vary in degree and type, but should not be ignored because it can impact speech and language skills. If your child isn’t meeting speech and language milestones, we always encourage parents to start the evaluation process with a hearing screening. You can ask your pediatrician for an initial hearing screening or you can find an ASHA certified Audiologist (www.asha.org) or ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat Doctor). Start here. Ruling out any potential hearing loss should always be the first step in treating a communication disorder.