Hearing impairment is where a child's ability to hear in the normal range is affected by disease, injury or disorder.
What is hearing impairment?
Hearing impairment is the loss of ability to hear as a result of disease, disorder or injury.
There are two main types of hearing impairment:
Conductive hearing loss
Conductive hearing loss is where sounds cannot pass from you outer ear to your inner ear, this is often caused by a blockage in the ear.
Sensorineural hearing loss
Sensorineural hearing loss is where the hair cells inside the cochlea or the auditory nerve are damaged. This damage occurs as a result of injury or naturally through ageing.
Both types of hearing loss may occur separately or both at the same time, this is known as a mixed hearing impairment.
Hearing impairment may occur from birth or develop later in life. The symptoms of hearing impairment will vary and depend on the severity and also the cause of the hearing impairment.
There are four main levels of hearing impairment which can result in speech and language difficulty:
A child with mild deafness may find it difficult to understand speech in noisy situations.
A child with moderate deafness may find it difficult to understand speech if they do not have a hearing aid in.
Children with severe deafness will often rely on lip reading or sign language in order to communicate.
Like children with severe deafness, children with profound deafness will often rely on sign language and lip reading.
Hearing impairment may affect the child's ability to understand and produce spoken language. Speech and language therapy will help and support a child with hearing impairment by maximising their ability to communicate.
What causes hearing impairment in children?
There are several different causes which can result in hearing impairment. A hearing impairment may be present at birth or may be acquired in childhood. Causes can include disease, sudden injury, or occur naturally.
What problems caused by hearing impairment can speech and language therapy help with?
Children with hearing impairments may experience the following difficulties. These difficulties can be supported by speech and language therapy:
- Speech sound problems
- Comprehension problems
- Expressive language problems
- Attention and listening problems
- Communication problems
- Language delay and impairment
How are speech and language difficulties as a result of a hearing impairment identified?
A hearing impairment will be diagnosed by an audiologist. If a child with a hearing impairment is experiencing additional speech and language difficulties, the speech and language therapist will carry out an assessment to identify these difficulties. An initial assessment carried out by the speech and language therapist will involve:
- A discussion with you about your child's speech and language abilities and any concerns you may have.
- A case history of your child's development.
- A general observation of your child's speech and language skills.
- A detailed assessment of your child's speech and language skills e.g. asking your child to name pictures which contain specific sounds and asking your child to follow verbal instructions.
How does speech and language therapy help children with hearing impairments?
Speech and language therapy will help to improve and support the communication of a child with a hearing impairment. Depending on the cause and severity of the hearing impairment, speech and language difficulties may be mild to severe. The speech and language therapist will aim to improve the intelligibility of your child's speech and also work on your child understanding.
In more severe cases where a child will fail to understand a majority of spoken language, the speech and language therapist may work on alternative and augmentative communication to help your child communicate more effectively. Common forms of alternative communication used for children with severe to profound hearing loss are sign language and visual prompts, the child may also be encouraged to lip read.
What would speech and language therapy treatment for a child with hearing impairment involve?
An initial assessment carried out by the speech and language therapist will help to determine the severity of speech and language difficulties the child may have as a result of their hearing impairment. Speech and language therapy may involve the following:
- one to one therapy
- clinic visits
- home visits
- consultative role
- alternative and augmentative communication
- advice and education
How do I arrange a speech and language therapy assessment for hearing impairment?
If you would like any more information on our speech and language therapy service, and would like to know more about the benefits of speech and language therapy for children with hearing loss and impairment, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0330 0885 643.
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