World Hearing Day
March 3 marked World Hearing Day, an advocacy and awareness initiative by the World Health Organization. For people in the hearing community, the sense of hearing is one part of our overall communication health. In adults, untreated hearing loss is often associated with social isolation, fatigue, and feelings of depression and anxiety. It may be invisible to others, but its effects are very real.
In infants and children, the effects of untreated hearing are of great concern. Unlike adults, infants and children are still learning how to communicate. People in the hearing community do that by listening to their communication partner’s speech. They also do that by listening to their own speech in a process called auditory feedback. If children cannot access the sounds from others and themselves, it can negatively impact speech and language development. The quieter sounds such as “s”, “sh”, “f”, “t”, and “k” can be difficult for a child with hearing loss to hear, so they may not say those sounds in their speech. This can make their speech more difficult to understand if they’re missing sounds that are frequent in the English language.
Can you imagine missing part of the message?
The a a the i.
The sentence, “The cat ate the fish”, without some of the quieter sounds is impossible to decipher for an adult, yet alone a child. This would make learning language a difficult task.
Fortunately, early hearing detection and intervention programs are in place to help support children and families with hearing loss. Audiologists and speech-language pathologists are just some of the health professionals that can help families on their hearing loss journey. Treatment looks different for different families and different situations. Some families opt for a spoken language approach, some opt for a sign language approach, while others do a combination approach. No matter the treatment approach, the goal is to support optimal communication development.
By: Ruzzelle Gasmen, MSc.
Registered Speech-Language Pathologist