May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, which makes this a great time to understand better how hearing impacts speech. It can help parents and seniors to better prepare for the responsibilities that come with adjusting to hearing impairments.
Why Better Hearing & Speech Month Is Important
Better Hearing Month might not get as much publicity as other causes, but that is precisely what makes it so important. In fact, this is a month dedicated to bringing more attention to communication disorders. When more people understand these disorders and how they affect individuals and their families, it can change the way the public and businesses make suitable accommodations.
How Hearing Impacts Speech Pathology
Hearing plays a crucial role in the development of language. In fact, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association reports that when children have hearing difficulties, they tend to experience delays in overall development.
Children with hearing impairments take a much longer time to learn new words. If left unaddressed, that vocabulary gap widens between children with hearing impairments and those without hearing difficulties. Children with hearing impairments learn basic words quickly, but they tend to struggle with the following:
- Words that have multiple meanings, especially when meanings change with pronunciation, such as “live.”
- Articles and other function words, such as “are” and “the.”
- More abstract words, such as “jealous” or “after.”
Children who are hearing impaired tend to use shorter and simpler sentences when speaking. This is not necessarily bad, but it does tend to run parallel to difficulties understanding more complex sentences. Even when there isn’t a total hearing loss, children often struggle to hear words ending with suffixes that determine pluralization or tense, affecting grammar.
Children are not always kind to each other, and adults are not always nurturing. Consequently, children with hearing impairments often face higher likelihoods of social isolation. This intensifies if children do not regularly meet others with hearing impairments. Fewer social connections further compound the risks highlighted above.
Children with hearing impairments but not total hearing loss might struggle to hear words with more quiet sounds. These include “sh” or “f.” Consequently, they might not use these at all when speaking. This can make it difficult to understand them, which further contributes to social isolation.
Why Pediatric Evaluations Are Important
If your family does not have a history of hearing impairment, you might not even think about testing for hearing conditions. However, 90% of children with hearing impairments have parents with healthy hearing. To add to this, 15% of Americans have some form of hearing impairment. It is also worth noting that five of every six children develop otitis media by three years old. This is a kind of ear infection that can lead to hearing impairment if left untreated.
When hearing impairments go unaddressed for some time, it can affect children’s future social and career opportunities. This begins with falling behind in the classroom and struggling to understand others and express themselves.
Regular evaluations can help parents catch any hearing impairments that may develop over time. The sooner they start preparing, the better the likelihood of keeping children on track and helping them adjust.
Why Senior Evaluations Are Important
Hearing impairment is a natural part of growing older for a significant portion of the population. By 45, roughly 2% of people develop hearing impairment. This reaches almost 25% by 65 and 50% by 75. Seniors might not immediately notice they are losing their hearing unless it occurred due to trauma or work-related injuries. In these cases, it may be accompanied by tinnitus, which can become painful. Consequently, regular evaluations are important.
Evaluations are especially crucial for seniors who meet any of the following criteria:
- Live alone
- Care for dependents
- Drive, ride or hike
How Early Detection Can Help
Parents and affected adults often feel it is better not to know if they have a hearing impairment. They are worried about what this might mean for the future and might feel resistant to adopting the measures that ensure a higher quality of life. The irony is that this approach increases the likelihood of their fears manifesting. Their hearing impairment might become worse, and they might face more isolation.
Speech therapy can help hearing-impaired children and adults overcome many of the challenges related to vocabulary, grammar, and enunciation. Early on, mastering coping techniques can help ensure children do not fall behind in school or adults in their careers.
Acceptance is an important part of battling any health condition or disability. The sooner that process begins, the more quickly affected persons can define a new normal for their lives. If they need mental health services, they can tap into this sooner rather than later to accept and improve their quality of life.
The Bottom Line
While it is certainly possible to develop mature speaking patterns and a good vocabulary without hearing, it does take additional work. Better Hearing and Speech Month reminds the public that this work is not just an individual effort. Everyone has a responsibility to make their communities more accessible for people with hearing impairments. Even small changes can make significant differences in the quality of life for affected persons.
At Happy Ears Hearing Center, we are committed to helping families in Arizona preserve their hearing or adjust to hearing impairment. We accept most insurance plans, so find a location near you.