Children learn speech and language from listening to others. The first few years are particularly critical for speech and language development. However, if a hearing loss exists, a child does not get the full benefit of language learning experiences. And if a hearing loss goes unnoticed, delays in speech and language can occur. For this reason, early diagnosis of a hearing loss is important.
Ear Infections and Your Child:
Recurring ear infections can place your child at greater risk for developing speech and language problems. Middle ear infections, or otitis media, are common in young children (usually from birth to the age of three). Acute otitis media can be painful, and typically starts with a cold. In most children, acuteotitis media resolves quickly.
However, ear infections with fluid (called otitis media with effusion or OME), are a different story. This kind of ear infection is usually associated with a thick fluid that fills the middle ear, interfering with the t OME can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months. About 25 to 50 per cent of OME cases are "silent", meaning that there are no symptoms. OME is usually not painful.
If you notice that your child is inattentive, pulling or scratching the ears, irritable, and/or listless, see your physician as soon as possible. If you suspect that your child has a hearing loss, contact an audiologist.
Warning Signs that may indicate chronic or recurring fluid in the ear are:
- wanting the television or radio louder than usual
- misunderstanding directions
- unexplained irritability
Where to Go For Help
Ear infections require immediate attention from a physician. If your child has frequently recurring infections and/or chronic fluid in the middle ear, two additional specialists may be consulted: an audiologist and a speech-language pathologist.
An audiologist will assess the severity of any hearing loss, even in a very young or uncooperative child. A speech-language pathologist will evaluate your child's specific speech and language skills and will recommend and/or provide treatment.
Parents and teachers who notice a child says "What?" repeatedly should ask for a hearing test from an audiologist. No child is too young to be tested. Hearing loss can be diagnosed and treated in newborn babies.
If you think your child may have a hearing problem:
- talk to your family doctor. If required, you can be referred to an ear, nose, and throat doctor (otolaryngologist) or audiologist.
- call an audiologist.
- call your local health unit.
This information was provided by the Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists - a national non-profit association
Early Detection is the Key:If you are a parent of a pre-school child and you suspect a speech and language problems, don't wait until he/she starts school to check it out. Often early detection and treatment can ensure better beginnings for school and more time to develop the skills needed for school.
The Public Health Department does not conduct hearing screening tests in the schools; however, a "Sight and Sound" Clinic is held each year at the school for a nominal fee.
- Toronto Preschool Speech and Language Services is a free service available to children from birth until they enter Senior Kindergarten.
- Ontario Speech-Language and Audiology Association (OSLA) may be contacted at 416-920-3676 for information on audiology assessments in Ontario.
- Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists