Children with reading issues may have hearing loss

Researchers at Coventry University have said that children with reading difficulties should be more thoroughly screened for hearing problems. In their study they found that 25% of the participants who had a reading difficulty had a mild or moderate hearing loss of which their parents and teachers were unaware.

A total of 195 children aged between eight and ten – including 36 with dyslexia and 29 with a history of repeated ear infections – completed a series of tests to establish their reading and writing skills and how they used the structures of words based on their sounds and meanings, in speech and literacy.

They were retested 18 months later, when a hearing screening was also carried out.

None of the parents of the children with dyslexia reported any knowledge of hearing loss before the tests, but the screening showed that nine out of 36 of these children had some form of hearing loss.
Around one third of the children who had repeated ear infections had problems with reading and writing, although the researchers suggest repeat ear infections will only result in reading difficulties when accompanied by weaknesses in other areas.

The classroom.

Researcher Dr Helen Breadmore said “Many children in school may have an undetected mild hearing loss, which makes it harder for them to access the curriculum.”

“A mild-moderate hearing loss will make the perception of speech sounds difficult, particularly in a classroom environment with background noise and other distractions. Therefore, children who have suffered repeated ear infections and associated hearing problems have fluctuating access to different speech sounds precisely at the age when this information is crucial in the early stages of learning to read.”

Parents and Teachers

There is limited screening of hearing loss for children in schools in Ireland. Since the introduction of Newborn Hearing Screening, children born with hearing loss are picked up earlier. “However, a significant number of children can develop hearing loss in childhood,” says Brendan Lennon, DeafHear’s Head of Advocacy. “In the absence of a comprehensive screening programme in schools, parents and teachers must be vigilant and consider hearing loss as a potential factor when children are struggling in the classroom.”

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