When you child doesn’t speak much, there are several different causes that might run through your head. First, there may be panic – parents tend to immediately worry that children who are slow to speak may be autistic, but limited speech isn’t the only symptom of autism. Those parents with chatty older children may also worry that the other siblings speak for or over their younger children, discouraging them from developing speech.
One commonly overlooked reason that your child may be slow to learn to speak, however, is that they’re suffering from hearing problems. These can be caused by any number of things, and using hearing aids and providing speech therapy early on is vital to helping your child meet communication milestones.
Causing Of Childhood Hearing Loss
Many children are born with compromised hearing, which may go undetected due to the difficulty of accurately testing hearing in young children. Children born prematurely or who spent time in the NICU are more prone to such problems, as are those who go on to suffer a large number of ear infections or who have relatives who also had childhood hearing loss. It’s also important to remember that young children are especially susceptible to hearing damage, so make sure you protect your child’s ears if they’re going be in a loud environment.
Signs Of Hearing Problems
A child with hearing loss, may show delays in both receptive and expressive language. Receptive language indicates understanding and is largely constituted by your child’s responses to engagement. A typically developing two year old, for example, will point to pictures or body parts when you name them, while a slightly older child will offer verbal answers or a shake of the head in response to questions. These are signs of receptive language development.
On the expressive side, children should be babbling by nine to twelve months and have at least three words by eighteen months. As your child grows, speech acquisition deficits will become more noticeable, and also more frustrating for both of you.
Testing Your Child’s Hearing
Testing hearing in young children is challenging, since they often can’t follow the typical directions, especially if they have limited expressive language. You can, however, ask your pediatrician to direct you to a specialized pediatric audiology lab where they’ll have experience and appropriate equipment designed to test young children.
Helping your child learn to communicate is one of your most important jobs as a parent, whatever that communication ultimately looks like. Whether your child is hearing impaired and primarily uses sign language, develops full, age appropriate speech, or learns to use an alternative or augmentative communication device, determining the source of their speech delays and developing a solution that works best for them should be your ultimate goal.