Children with Hearing Loss at Higher Risk for Behavioral Disorders

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“Every day, in a hundred small ways, our children ask, ‘Do you hear me? Do you see me? Do I matter?’ Their behavior often reflects our response.” ~ L.R. Knost

This quote is true of every child, but imagine how hearing loss can potentially impact a child’s communication and ultimately their behavior. Without early interventions, knowledgeable hearing health providers and effective communication strategies for both the child and their family, friends and other trusted adults, kids with hearing loss may be at a higher risk for behavioral disorders.

A recent review of research highlights just that risk and what hearing health care practitioners and families need to know.

The numbers

According to the National Institutes of Health, “about 2 to 3 out of every 1,000 children in the United States are born with a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears.” This equates to millions of children who are born into a hearing world with hearing loss. While much research to date has focused on how hearing loss affects communication and speech development in children, little has been done to investigate behavioral disorders in this group. The recent review of existing research found that much more needs to be done.

What research has found

According to the article “Behavioral Disorders in Children with Hearing Loss” published in The Hearing Journal:

  • The occurrence of behavioral disorders in children with hearing loss is more than double that in children with normal hearing. This may include emotional and social withdrawal, symptoms of depression, poor self-esteem or anxiety as well as more outward aggression, defiance, destructiveness, and impulsive behavior.
  • While some of the research found that hearing loss interventions such as cochlear implants may help outward behavioral disorders, they don’t necessarily reduce the risk of more internal behavioral disorders such as anxiety.

When looking closer at interventions for behavioral disorders for children with hearing loss, the findings underscored the importance of more research and the need for better understanding and interventions with conclusions such as:

  • Early intervention for behavioral problems is essential to help prevent further disorders later in life.
  • More research is needed into the delivery of behavioral interventions in this population to best adapt the most effective universal strategies for children with hearing loss.
  • Hearing loss treatment does not prevent or treat behavioral disorders in children with hearing loss.
  • Families of children with hearing loss may find it difficult to add behavioral therapy sessions to an already full schedule of audiology and speech therapy appointments.

The opportunity

The message is clear, better support for families of children with hearing loss is needed to help prevent and manage behavioral disorders. This includes more research to understand how best to serve this population, integration of these behavioral components into hearing healthcare and more awareness and education for hearing healthcare providers working with children with hearing loss.

If your child has hearing loss and may be experiencing behavioral problems, contact your hearing healthcare provider or reach out to related support groups in your area.

If you believe your child may have hearing loss, call our office to schedule a hearing evaluation.

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