Hearing Loss Effects, Difficulties, and Stats – Oh My!

I research and read a lot about hearing loss, and frequently see lists stating what the “common effects of hearing loss” are for children…  or what to expect if your child has hearing loss..  or common symptoms or ways to detect if a child has hearing loss.  I’ve read about studies proving how high percentages of kids who have hearing loss will often face many difficulties with this, that and the other thing.   It’s not something that is easy to swallow – especially when you first learn your child has a hearing loss.

I remember reading many of these articles and feeling a sinking feeling in my stomach.  Was my child going to have these problems? Just how bad IS this “mild to moderate” hearing loss anyway?”  How can “mild” be so bad?  It was scary…  and still can be sometimes when I start reading .  It’s enough to make you think, “maybe, I should stop reading and go bury my head in the sand!”.  Of course, you know that’s not the answer…  but, it’s tempting!

Believing that your child even HAS a hearing problem is maybe the hardest thing to do when first diagnosed.  It’s just hard to accept – or maybe to even notice.  I know I was completely shocked initially.  Mild-moderate hearing loss is just plain easy to miss.   In our case, it wasn’t until my son was about 4 years old that we realized his speech was a little off…  and it wasn’t until third grade that he started showing any signs of struggling at all in school.

This is also why learning about hearing loss is a bit double-edged too.  Part of you wants to not believe these things could be applying to your own child, and in all reality not ALL of it does.  However, there IS  a real need for people (especially parents, doctors, schools and teachers, etc.) to realize that mild-moderate hearing loss actually IS a problem.   Because just like it was hard for you to believe and accept that your child has a “problem”, it’s often very difficult for others as well…  and that poses a very different, and very real sort of problem for you and your child  –  and that is getting real needs (whatever they might be) –  met.

For many years, and often still today, children with mild and moderate hearing loss were called “forgotten” or “overlooked” .  That’s why they call it the “”invisible disability”.   It’s easily misdiagnosed, misunderstood, and dismissed.   Hearing aids, FM systems, speech therapy, etc., ARE real needs for most kids with mild-moderate hearing loss.   Children with hearing loss, even mild, should get assistance to have needs met with a 504 or IEP plan.  Yet often schools will say something like,  “well, Johnny isn’t failing so they don’t qualify for assistance”… or “Johnny can hear well enough“.   Someone might even accuse your child of having “behavioral” issues and tell you they think they can hear “just fine!”.  It’s times like that you will really want to know the information in these articles, including the scary stats.  You will want to be able to explain and prove that  even a mild hearing loss really DOES (or CAN) pose a real problem.  You will want to do this so that you can make sure your child gets what he/she needs.

So, how DO you figure out just what your child needs?  Well, it’s not easy…  but,  the more you learn and read and research yourself… the better you can make those tough decisions.  Talk to other parents – I think they are probably the biggest help.  Explore ALL options.  There’s a lot of options…  and they just keep coming up with more!   It can be pretty overwhelming…  but, take your time and take it one step at a time.  This is an ongoing thing…  live and learn kind of thing.  You can’t possibly figure it all out overnight – and you don’t have to.

And here’s some REALLY GOOD NEWS,

which, I’m sure you could use right about now!  Especially if you just found out your child has a hearing loss.    Please hear this next part loud and clear:

  • Many of the problems that you will read about, that research shows regarding children with hearing loss,  actually apply to HOH kids who do NOT GET ANY preventative help!  This means they had a hearing loss, and did NOT get diagnosed,  and/or did not get hearing aids, and FM system, basic understanding etc.

This is probably COMPLETELY DIFFERENT than your situation.  Because just by discovering your child has Hearing Loss, and your learning about what that means – you can prevent and/or minimize many of these scary stats!
YOUR CHILD will HAVE the assistance they need, because YOU will make sure they do!  Right?  Right!

So, please do NOT let every article and list or problems for kids with HL send you over the deep end.  Please KNOW that just because you read something in an article, or hear it’s “the norm” for many HOH kids – doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the norm for your child.

Each child… and each hearing loss is so  individualized.

For an example, below is a list I recently found online, as part of an article called,  Effects of Hearing Loss on Development“, from: http://www.asha.org/public/hearing/disorders/effects.htm …  it’s a good article and has more info in it if you want to check it out in its entirety.

Since my son, AC, is now 13 years old – I thought it would be interesting to see how he “fits” with the list.  So, I pasted the list of  “Specific Effects”  below…  and then put my comments in red in parentheses ( ) …

http://www.asha.org/public/hearing/disorders/effects.htm

Specific Effects

Vocabulary

  • Vocabulary develops more slowly in children who have hearing loss.
    (NOT TRUE for us.  AC had a HUGE vocabulary, very early on – it was just his pronunciation that was off).  
  • Children with hearing loss learn concrete words like cat, jump, five, and red more easily than abstract words like before, after, equal to, and jealous. They also have difficulty with function words like the, an, are, and a. (never noticed this  – perhaps this applies more if there isn’t any intervention or hearing aids, and/or less reading)  
  • The gap between the vocabulary of children with normal hearing and those with hearing loss widens with age. Children with hearing loss do not catch up without intervention.
    (we had intervention – and doesn’t seem to be an issue for AC)           
  • Children with hearing loss have difficulty understanding words with multiple meanings. For example, the word bank can mean the edge of a stream or a place where we put money. (again… never noticed this)

Sentence Structure

  • Children with hearing loss comprehend and produce shorter and simpler sentences than children with normal hearing. (never noticed )           
  • Children with hearing loss often have difficulty understanding and writing complex sentences, such as those with relative clauses (“The teacher whom I have for math was sick today.”) or passive voice (“The ball was thrown by Mary.”) (never noticed)           
  • Children with hearing loss often cannot hear word endings such as -s or -ed. This leads to misunderstandings and misuse of verb tense, pluralization, nonagreement of subject and verb, and possessives.  (TRUE – This DID happen with AC… )

Speaking

  • Children with hearing loss often cannot hear quiet speech sounds such as “s,” “sh,” “f,” “t,” and “k” and therefore do not include them in their speech. Thus, speech may be difficult to understand. (definitely.  This DID happen but, a little speech therapy, Hearing Aids and FM helped with this a lot)           
  • Children with hearing loss may not hear their own voices when they speak. They may speak too loudly or not loud enough. They may have a speaking pitch that is too high. They may sound like they are mumbling because of poor stress, poor inflection, or poor rate of speaking. (AC was a loud kid… and talked loudly.. but not so much we noticed why at first.  Now, we all talk loudly.  =)

Academic Achievement

  • Children with hearing loss have difficulty with all areas of academic achievement, especially reading and mathematical concepts. (NOT TRUE  for us – but this was WITH hearing aids, and FM system.  AC is a great student, high honor roll, and has ALWAYS been a VERY advanced reader and excels in math.  I would suggest reading a LOT with any kid early on, but even more so if your child has hearing loss.  AC’s reading skills were a huge help.  What he couldn’t hear, he could read to clarify or better understand something.)           
  • Children with mild to moderate hearing losses, on average, achieve one to four grade levels lower than their peers with normal hearing, unless appropriate management occurs. (NOT True for us!  See above comment… )           
  • Children with severe to profound hearing loss usually achieve skills no higher than the third or fourth-grade level, unless appropriate educational intervention occurs early. (Key Words: “unless appropriate educational intervention“. )           
  • The gap in academic achievement between children with normal hearing and those with hearing loss usually widens as they progress through school. (3rd grade was a turning point for us..  but, I believe the harder work gets, the more important his hearing becomes.  He can’t “skate by” or rely on visual clues as much as directions become more complex.  However, by the time he was in high school his “reading lips”, self advocating, and finding other ways to manage DID improve, making some things much easier. )           
  • The level of achievement is related to parental involvement and the quantity, quality, and timing of the support services children receive.  (I believe it!  If you don’t ask, and sometimes PUSH to get what you need for your child – nobody will.  You can NOT rely on the school  OR your child’s doctor (unfortunately) to always TELL YOU what is best for your child.)           
  • Children with severe to profound hearing losses often report feeling isolated, without friends, and unhappy in school, particularly when their socialization with other children with hearing loss is limited. (While AC has had his moments when this, for the most part, it hasn’t been true.  AC has lots of friends and participates in many activities with them over the years (CubScouts, Baseball, Orchestra, Cross Country, Track,  etc. ) 

Social Functioning

  • These social problems appear to be more frequent in children with a mild or moderate hearing losses than in those with a severe to profound loss.  (I’ve read this..   and can see where it could be true, so I’ve worried about it.  However, AC seems to handle this very well.)

So, there you have more than my two cents worth!  =)   I do hope that makes some of those lists a little less scary to some parents out there.   The article I cut that list from has more info in it and is actually very informative  – so check it out at:  http://www.asha.org/public/hearing/disorders/effects.htm.

Just remember to take all the information in that you read, but make note that many of those “scary stats” are talking about children who do NOT get any kind of intervention (ex. early diagnosis, hearing aids, FM system, ASL, basic consideration, etc.!) –  and apply whatever you read as necessary to your situation.

Take care,
Deb

20 Responses

  1. Deb,
    Thanks for writing this blog as it is very helpful and informative as with my own personal experience i can say its not easy for parents in the beginning to coop with the situation, understand or even identifies the needs of the kids and most important how and where to get help. With this blog you are spreading a words of knowledge, providing a helping hand to the parents like us so, we can learn from your personal experience and find the… source of help for our kids.
    Thanks again for being so thoughtful….. and on the same time I would like to encourage other experience parents to add there thoughts , views so all of us can join hands to make this journey easy for our loved ones.
    Warmly,
    Ashu

  2. It’s just as important to recognize the potential pit falls as it is to remember that kids are individuals. I recently bristled when the school audiologist told my daughter’s kindergarten teacher that kids with hearing loss will have smaller vocabularies than typically hearing kids.

    I was sure to point out that Julia has an excellent vocabulary. It’s something we work on and I don’t want her starting off with lowered expectations from her teacher.

    Great post!

  3. I found your blog kinda randomly but just had to put my two cents in! I am stunned that people still think that kids with hearing loss will have poor sentence structure, be a few grades behind their peers, etc. That’s the kind of thing they were telling my parents over 20 years ago! And I think that things like vocabulary and sentence structure have more to do with being a voracious (OOOOOH such a big word for this hard of hearing lady!) reader – and that applies to ALL kids, whether or not they live with hearing loss.

    “Children with severe to profound hearing loss usually achieve skills no higher than the third or fourth-grade level, unless appropriate educational intervention occurs early.” Seriously? I have a profound hearing loss. I graduated from college with a B.A. in English – cum laude, too, thankyouverymuch – four years ago. Take that, ASHA! :)

    Anyway, sorry my first comment on your blog is an irritated one! ;) Not at YOU, of course… but at the misconceptions that website puts forth. I thought surely we had made better strides in the last 20 years!

    Thanks for sharing your experiences and I look forward to reading more from you!

  4. Hi Lucy and welcome! I think you have plenty of reason to feel irritated. I was too. My main goal of this post was to show that most of those “terrible” things we read as parents of a child with hearing loss, do NOT apply. Perhaps, in my rambling on, I didn’t do a good job of conveying that.

    I think the point the article was trying to make is that “WITHOUT any kind of Iintervention” – those things can happen. Without the use of hearing aids or an FM system, for example.

    But, when a parent learns their child has a hearing loss, they read these stats and stuff, and it’s very upsetting. It’s NOT clear that many of these “stats” apply to children who did NOT have any intervention, or possibly even had an undetected hearing loss. I wanted them to know that those things often DO NOT apply, and are NOT the norm when there IS basic intervention… and that, like you, people with hearing loss can do anything they want.

    My son is a high honor roll student in 8th grade now, in all accelerated classes, and doing wonderfully in school. Of course, that is WITH the use of his Hearing Aids, and an FM system in school, and some basic consideration from his teachers.

    Still, a large part of the reason I created this blog was because I had such a hard time finding information for mild/moderate hearing loss. There IS a real lack of current information, and an abundance of outdated info out there…

    Please feel free to comment or share your thoughts and experiences here any time.

    Thanks,
    Deb

  5. Oh yeah, I completely understand… I hope I did not come across as if I was criticizing you or your blog! Certainly not my intention and I apologize if I came across that way. I was just trying to express shock, as you did, that certain assumptions and misconceptions still live in audiological circles. In other words, I agree with you! :)

    And I would probably concede that some of the negative results they talk about probably would occur *without intervention.* But like you said, they didn’t always make that clear.

    My dad STILL seethes over the doctor who told him that I wouldn’t make it past the third grade. And that was over 20 years ago! So I know it’s so very frustrating for a parent.

    One of the reasons I started my blog was to educate people on hearing loss. And that ASHA data just confirms the need for more education. It’s sad because we expect audiologists to be our biggest supporters because you would think they would have the best understanding about hearing loss, but sometimes they are the ones we need to teach the most!

    Thanks for responding to my comment and I apologize again for not stating my opinion in a um, less emotionally-charged manner. ;)

    Happy blogging!
    Lucy

  6. Thanks again for allaying the fears! It’s been 1.5 years for us, and we pretty much realized ourselves that those scary articles largely do not apply to our son, but it’s good to hear it from a mom of an older child! Another great post! Thanks!

  7. Thank you for this blog. It’s nice to know that others are in our same position and are making it work.

    My daughter is an excellent student and we have finally gotten the school to agree to a trial run with the FM system. However, they have told us that because she has not experienced any academic impact that she will not likely be able to keep the FM system past the trial run.

    I just feel so … LOST. I just don’t understand how you dismiss someone with a documented disability and tell me that you don’t think she needs your help.

    I want her to keep up what she has shown as some amazing potential. But they want to see her fail before they will help her. It breaks me heart.

  8. Lucy – no need to apologize! You made your point quite well, and most politely. =) Your comments and input is very welcome here… so thank you. I can definitely see where you are coming from and glad we are on the same page. =)

    Renw – Thanks for the comment, and visit. I’m glad you’re finding your way around.

    Denise -
    Hello =)… and welcome. May I ask how old your daughter is? I so feel your frustration. While it’s been a few years – what you are describing so far is exactly what the school told us initially… that our son wasn’t “failing” so – he didn’t “qualify”. They were wrong. Unfortunately, the folks in the schools do not (and can not) know all the laws, and how they apply to hearing loss specifically. They sometimes try to lump all IEP’s and “special needs” kids together.. and not only is that not right, but it’s not legal. I found that we, as parents, can not always depend on the schools or doctors to tell us what we need to do, or what will be best for our child – we need to demand (nicely) what they deserve or all too often, they won’t get it.

    You might find these posts helpful: http://hearmehearmenot.wordpress.com/2010/05/11/is-child-with-passing-grades-eligible-for-special-ed-under-idea/

    http://hearmehearmenot.wordpress.com/2008/12/16/does-your-child-meet-the-legal-definition-of-child-with-a-disability/

    also – this article: http://handsandvoices.org/articles/education/law/auto_elig.html

  9. Thank you so much for your blog. I found it very informative and helpful. I am a new mother of a 3 month old with mild hearing loss. He gets his hearing aids next week. I’m hopeful that finding out this early will keep him from encountering many of the stats you wrote about. I know that with mine and my husband’s help he will excel in school. I think now my biggest concern is how other kids will treat him.

  10. Hello Leigh. I’m glad you found this blog helpful and also that you were able to find out early on about your child’s hearing loss. That will make things so much easier as you go forward… I wish we had know earlier….

    I understand your concerns as well… and went thru those same worries – especially when we first found out. Truthfully, the other kids were just fine with his hearing aids and him for the most part. Initially, most kids were curious – but, not mean-spirited about it – especially in the early grade school years. I think, the older he got – the more it was a concern for himself.. even if nobody was saying anything to him about it. In general, he has always had a lot of friends, and fit in just fine with his peers.

    There is Stigma associated with hearing aids/hearing loss – and it can be frustrating. Luckily, I think, it’s not as bad as it use to be – or maybe we just didn’t experience it so much ourselves. Technology has come a long way, and really made a big impact too. There were a couple of minor incidents over the years with AC that this stigma came into play – but, nothing major… and they were isolated cases. Part of me had to realize that if it wasn’t this, it would be something. I mean, what kid DOESN’T get picked on at some point for something? Still… we didn’t like it, no. To AC’s credit, I think he always handled himself very well.

    For us, the best thing was just for AC to be very matter of face about it to other kids. The better he accepted and understood his hearing loss – and the more confident about it he could be – the better. Sometimes, just explaining it a little to other families right off the bat was helpful… like… “Yes. He has a moderate hearing loss. With his hearing aids, he can hear you just fine unless you are far away or it’s really noisy… then, he might need you to repeat something or to face him so he can read your lips.”

    I did write a little about this topic here:
    http://hearmehearmenot.wordpress.com/2008/11/12/so-whats-your-problem/

    and here:

    http://hearmehearmenot.wordpress.com/2008/07/11/the-kid-with-the-hearing-aids/

    I hope things go well with the new hearing aids… and I hope you’ll stop back here again and keep in touch. =)

    Take care.
    Deb

  11. I have just recently found your blog…it is so nice to hear someone else’s story and some information regarding kids and hearing loss. My son, now just turned 7, was diagnosed about 1.5 years ago with a bilateral cookie bite loss mild/moderate. We got hearing aids for him and he has adapted well and thought things are going well…but this year at school we found that when the teacher moved him to the back of the class (for desk rotation) he got lost and missed a lot. Now I am finding out that we should probably have an FM system. I am trying to find out more…

  12. Hello Jennifer. Welcome here – even though I’m afraid this blog doesn’t get much interaction these days.. there is still a lot of info and links that I hope will be helpful to you. You might also want to try the “Listen Up” Yahoo group (Link on left) which is very active.

    Do you have an IEP or 504 plan for your son? I hope the school works with you and gets the FM set up. It really made a huge difference for our son, and he still usesit in school now.

    My son didn’t start using the FM until he was in 3rd grade… but, most likely should have been using it before then. Did you see some of the articles or posts I made regarding that time for us? I got into it in my “background page” (http://hearmehearmenot.wordpress.com/background/) towards the middle, where I talk about “He’s all set, or is he?”> That is also where I mention an article that talkes about how 3rd grade is a common time for kids with a mild-to-moderate hearing loss to start having more problems in school – due to “more complex verbal instructions, and less visual clues”. (see: https://www.msu.edu/~huffma23/)

    These might be helpful to you also: .

    http://hearmehearmenot.wordpress.com/2008/07/16/acknowledging-needs-of-children-with-mild-hearing-loss/

    http://hearmehearmenot.wordpress.com/2008/11/14/mild-hearing-loss-or-add/

    I know it can all be so overwhelming and impossible at times. It does get easier… and if there’s anything I can do to help, let me know.

    Thanks,
    Deb

  13. We have gotten a trial of the FM system and it seems to be helping. We got an IEP evaluation at which they said he qualified for help, but at this point pulling him out of school (he is at a parochial school) wouldn’t benefit him enough to do it. So there is no plan and therefore they will not provide an FM system. So I have to decide to push it further or buy one out of pocket.

    I just realized I had posted here this summer…and I just newly posted on the blog at a different page. Time flies! This time I am bookmarking it!

  14. Time DOES fly! so sorry I haven’t been on here. How is the FM working out?

  15. The FM does seem to help, although the teachers still comment on his distractibility. We just got through standardized testing again and it wasnt good. So I am trying to figure out the next step. He takes a long time to learn concepts and seems to just hang in there! he is a great kid, we are trying to make sure there is nothing else we are missing.

  16. Hello,
    I just came across your blog and am finding it a wealth of information. My 7 year old son has mild to moderate hearing loss and has had his hearing aids for almost 2 years. He is in grade 2 and though he uses an fm system at school I am concerned about literacy. Any advice for methods to support reading comprehension?
    Thank you for your time!
    Sarah

  17. Jennifer, sorry to hear your son and you are still struggling. It is so hard to watch your child struggle and feel so helpless. Hearing loss and “easily distracted” also just go together. Hearing loss makes it much more difficult to focus on more than one thing at a time. Whatever has their attention, tends to have their full attention. The FM will help with that, but like any technology, it doesn’t always work. teachers need to know that working in groups can be a problem, or taking notes while listening…

    For us, it was key to not only have the teachers on board, but to also get the school district’s audiologist, and teacher of the deaf/HOH involved, AND find a really good audiologist of our own. That, and just keep learning as much as you can, and take things one day at a time. I know how challenging it is. Finding other parents and support is also so helpful… Do you use Facebook? Facebook has become a great resource with groups, private or open, and pages like:

    Hearing Exchange group:
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/HearingExchange/

    Parents of Hearing Impaired Children: https://www.facebook.com/groups/3424130837/

  18. Hi Sarah, thanks for the comment, and I’m glad you found me. I don’t post on here as much anymore, so my apologies for the delay in my response. My son is now 15, and we’ve moved on to new teenage type battles, that are really hard to tell if they are hearing loss related or not.

    Fortunately, for us, literacy wasn’t ever really a problem. In fact, it was more of a godsend. AC was always a very advanced reader, and I think that was a huge benefit for him. He couldn’t always hear everything, and words weren’t always clear, but if it was in the text book or whatever, he could at least read it and get it all in that way.

    We did always try to encourage reading from the get-go, but I’m not sure how much of his passion for reading was just part of who he was vs. encouraged. Things we did do were the same for both our boys, and not really anything special for kids with hearing loss. Either my husband or I would read with him every night at bedtime. When he was younger, we read to him. When he started reading himself, we started alternating… we would read a page to him, then he would read a page to me, etc. Sometimes, it was alternating paragraphs. He did like it better when I read TO him, so, sometimes it was more of a 70/30 thing, rather than 50/50. As we did this, I would stop at big words he had trouble pronouncing to explain what they meant… or to talk about what was happening in the story. We tried to pick books that would peak his interest, and when I would read, I would make it very animated. So he not only liked the one on one time with us, but got into the story. We did this for years, until he just sort of took off reading on his own all the time and got too old for us to lay in bed with him or put him to bed.

    We also encouraged him to read by letting him read ANYTHING that peaked his interest… including comic books. He liked my “Calvin & Hobbes” books, so he/we read all those… There were also some funny books, like “Captain Underpants” series, that I would never have picked out on my own for him, but he thought they were hilarious, so we let him read them. (http://www.scholastic.com/captainunderpants/). Oh, and the “Wimpy kid diaries”. Then, there were the “Magic Tree house” series, and before we knew it he was reading the whole Harry Potter series.

    Also, any computer games when he was younger were educational. You might as well get that in while you can, because before you know it they want to just play not-so-educational games! ;)

    We were like this with both our boys, and they are both advanced readers, like a grade level ahead. I’m sure part of it is just nature… and we are lucky… but I like to think at least part of it was because of the things we did.

  19. Hi Deb,
    Thanks for this article (even if i’m a bit late in reading it!!).

    My 5 month old daughter was diagnosed at 6 weeks with bilateral mild-moderate hearing loss and I was nodding my head at your sentence regarding it being hard to believe your child has a problem.

    I have two older sons and as far as I can tell she is as responsive as my older two were at her age so it’s very easy to bury my head in the sand and forget to put her hearing aids in etc.

    As she is still so young i’m finding it hard to wrap my head around what having a hearing loss will mean for Irie in the future and reading the negative aspects and maybe’s isn’t helpful.

    So thanks for your counter argument! It certainly lightens my heart & mind.

    Shannon

  20. A note to Shannon if that is okay…Reid was diagnosed at 8 weeks with mild to moderate as well. I struggled for the first year (as did my husband) believing that he had a loss and needed hearing aids. He was responsive to his older siblings as well, so we were in denial big time. I finally decided to do my best to have him wear his aids when he started talking more and his speech sounded funny. His favorite first sound for every word was d, and he was hard to understand if you didn’t know what he was talking about. Thanks to speech class and consistently wearing aids, he is now doing awesome. Now at age 8 he is a great reader (we read or he reads to us every night as well) and his speech is perfect.

    Talk to your audiologist about any doubts or concerns you have. Find one who will listen and offer help, not just do a hearing test and send you on your way. Your child deserves a great head start, and you are just the one to give it to her! It is a TON of work, but when their teachers write notes on report cards that say they are at or above grade level despite hearing loss, it is definitely worth it.

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