Hearing and Hearing Loss Hearing loss and child development

Children use their hearing to learn about the world around them and to develop their language and communication skills. The most important period for speech and language development occurs in the first few years of a child's life. By the time a child is around four years old, they already know around 1500 words and begin to tell stories. Language skills developed during the preschool years serve as a wonderful foundation for learning in school.

When a baby is born with a hearing loss, the process of developing language can be delayed. The impact this has on a child’s development depends on the type and degree of the hearing loss, as well as other child, family and environmental factors.

Effects of hearing loss on children’s language development include:
  • limited vocabulary (i.e. the words a child says)
  • unclear pronunciation and unintelligible speech
  • difficulty understanding language

Delays to speech and language development can affect a child’s relationships, education and employment later in life. These delays can be prevented or reduced through early diagnosis of the hearing loss and early intervention.

Current research suggests children born with a moderate or greater degree of sensorineural hearing loss in both ears are most likely to receive the best outcomes if the hearing loss is diagnosed and early intervention commences before the child is six months old.