Kids deaf in one ear fall behind in language skills

May 10th, 2010 - 3:37 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, May 10 (IANS) Hearing loss in a single ear of a child hurts his ability to comprehend and use language, says a new study.
“For many years, paediatricians and educators thought that as long as children have one normal hearing ear, their speech and language would develop normally,” says study leader Judith EC Lieu, ear, nose and throat specialist of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis (WUSM-SL).

“But then a few studies began suggesting these children might have problems in school. Now our study has shown that on average, children with hearing loss in one ear have poorer oral language scores than children with hearing in both ears,” Lieu says.

Hearing loss in one ear can stem from congenital abnormalities in the ear, head trauma or infections such as meningitis.

Children with hearing loss in one ear may go undetected because they can appear to have normal hearing. Their difficulty in hearing may be mistaken simply for lack of attention or selective hearing, says Lieu, also assistant professor of otolaryngology.

Even children with recognised one-side hearing loss often aren’t fitted with hearing aids and often don’t receive accommodations for disability.

Lieu says the study demonstrated the strongest effect from hearing loss in one ear in children who are living below the poverty level or with mothers who have little education.

Researchers studied 74 six- to 12-year-old children with hearing loss in one ear. Each was matched with a sibling with normal hearing so that the researchers could minimise the possible effects of environmental and genetic factors on the children’s language skills.

The children were tested with the Oral and Written Language Scales (OWLS), a widely used tool to assess language comprehension and expression.

An average OWLS score is 100, and hearing loss in one ear caused about a 10-point drop in scores.

The oral composite score - which reflects both children’s ability to understand what is said to them and their ability to respond or express themselves - averaged 90 in children with hearing loss in one ear, said a WUSM-SL release.

The study is slated for publication in the June issue of Paediatrics.

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