For people with communication disorders, those closest people to them are often their biggest asset. Unfortunately, many parents and caregivers are unable to identify the warning signs or dismiss them too readily. A recent poll of speech-language pathologists and audiologists by ASHA reported significant parental delays in getting help for children with communication difficulties. This is just one example of the missed opportunities that commonly occur with communication disorders.
Healthy human ears can perceive an enormous range of sounds in terms of pitch and loudness. Hearing is the primary sense through which we learn speech and language. The ability to hear clearly from birth is extremely important with regard to normal development of speech and language skills, auditory processing skills, a sense of self, as well as normal emotional and psychological well-being and more. Untreated hearing loss can affect your ability to understand speech and can negatively impact your social and emotional well being.
The CDC has a wonderful campaign to “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” From birth to 5 years, your child should reach milestones in how he plays, learns, speaks, acts and moves. Track your child’s development and act early if you have a concern. For example, babies start hearing sounds before they are born. After birth, babies watch their parent’s faces and hear them speak. The baby’s hearing system continues to develop everyday. At three months old, babies will smile when spoken to, and at six months old they will begin to babble and imitate certain sounds. If your baby can not hear, this process of development will be slowed down and can be detrimental to the cognitive development of your baby.
Children with hearing loss whose hearing loss is identified early and receive immediate treatment develop better speech and language skills and have fewer developmental delays. Early intervention can also lead to better performance in school. Studies show that children with hearing loss who get help early develop better language skills than those who do not.
Newborn hearing screening is designed to detect hearing loss as early as possible. However, a few babies can pass a hearing test and still have hearing loss. Some develop hearing loss later in childhood due to illness or certain genetic conditions. Even if your child has passed a hearing screen before, it is important to look out for the following signs:
- Does not startle at loud noises
- Does not turn to the source of a sound
- Does not say single words, such as “dada” or “mama” by 1 year of age
- Turns head when he or she sees you but not if you only call out his or her name
- Seems to hear some sounds but not others
When you recognize the problem, you can connect people with professionals like us at the Vail Valley Hearing Center. Every day, I see in my work that untreated communication disorders often lead to larger academic, social, and developmental issues. Early diagnosis is the most powerful way to reduce or even reverse their impact and can give your loved ones the opportunity to lead the fullest lives possible. Above all, I hope you will seek help if you suspect that you or a loved one shows signs of having a disorder.