Hear More Words, Speak More Words: Hearing Aids in Kids

Hearing aids in children appeared to benefit speech and language skills

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Hearing loss makes it difficult to understand others who speak to you. But for children, hearing loss also makes learning speech and language more difficult.

A recent study looked at whether hearing aids made a difference in those speech and language skills for children with hearing loss.

By studying a group of preschool children who wore hearing aids, the researchers found that the aids were linked to better speech and language abilities.

Both the amount of hearing improvement the aids provided and the length of time the children wore them influenced their speech and language skills.

"Have your child's hearing regularly checked."

This study, led by J. Bruce Tomblin, PhD, of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at The University of Iowa, looked at how effective hearing aids are in helping children with hearing loss in their speech and language development.

The researchers measured the speech and language abilities of 180 children, aged 3 and 5, who had some level of hearing loss.

All of the children except four had been fitted with hearing aids, and the researchers recorded how long the children had worn the hearing aids and how much the aids improved their hearing.

This information was compared against the children's speech and language abilities.

The researchers found that the improvement in children's hearing from the aids was linked to the children's development in both speech and in language.

In other words, greater improvement in hearing appeared to translate into slightly better speech and language skills for the children with mild and moderate-to-severe hearing loss. The better the child could hear with the help of the hearing aid, the better the child's speech and language skills tended to be.

Similarly, the researchers found that the amount of hearing improvement the children experienced appeared related to how long the children had been wearing the hearing aids.

Children whose hearing aids were best at helping improve their hearing also benefited the most from having worn the hearing aid for a longer period of time.

"The degree of improved hearing provided by hearing aids was associated with better speech and language development in children," the researchers wrote.

"These results provide support for the provision of well-fitted hearing aids to children with hearing loss," the researchers continued. "In particular, the findings support early hearing aid fitting and hearing aid provision to children with mild hearing loss."

The researchers also noted the importance of speech and language development with later success.

"Numerous studies have shown that speech and language development during the preschool years plays a vital role in the success of children in school and later life," the researchers wrote.

This study was published April 3 in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology. The research was funded by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. The authors reported no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
April 3, 2014
Last Updated:
April 3, 2014