PhotoIf your child has reading difficulties, the problem may not lie in their comprehension – it might be due to a hearing problem.

That’s the conclusion of a Coventry University study, which found that 25 percent of young participants who had reading difficulties also had mild to moderate hearing impairment. Report author Dr. Helen Breadmore says the finding indicates a greater need to screen young children for hearing problems.

"Many children in school may have an undetected mild hearing loss, which makes it harder for them to access the curriculum,” she said. "Current hearing screening procedures are not picking up these children, and we would advise that children have their hearing tested in more detail and more often.

Detrimenal to development

The study compared children with dyslexia to a group of children with a history of repeated ear infections to see if both groups had similar difficulties with reading comprehension.

The researchers asked nearly 200 participants to complete a series of tests to determine how they used word sounds and meanings in speech and literacy. After an 18-month period, all participants were tested again.

The test results showed that 25 percent of participants with dyslexia suffered from some kind of hearing impairment, with symptoms mild enough to be missed by parents. Literacy problems were slightly more common in children with hearing infections, affecting 33 percent of these participants.

Breadmore points out that these hearing problems can be detrimental in a classroom setting, and that it can negatively impact long-term development.

"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,” she said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that there is no single treatment or intervention for childhood hearing loss. However, it says that some options may include working with a support group or medical professional, or buying a hearing aid.


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