Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 9th 2014 Contents A32
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Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Wednesday, April 9, 2014
"Kids with mild losses can appear as though they're getting along okay so it's easier to be casual about it."
For young kids who are
hard of hearing, the
longer they wear a
hearing aid, the better
their speech and lan-
guage skills, according to a new
"Parents get some conflicting infor-
mation, especially if their kids only
have mild hearing loss: should they
get hearing aids now or wait until
later," said Mary Pat Moeller, an audi-
ologist. She worked on the study at
the Center for Childhood Deafness at
Boys Town National Research Hospital
in Omaha, Nebraska.
But even kids in the study with only
mild hearing loss had significantly
improved speaking skills if they wore
hearing aids, Moeller told Reuters
Health. And the longer they wore
them, the more speech improved.
According to the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, studies sug-
gest anywhere from less than one per
cent to almost 15 per cent of US chil-
dren have hearing loss.
For the new report, the researchers
analysed data from 180 hard of hearing
three- and five-year-olds, almost all
of whom had been fitted with hearing
aids. Kids were evaluated with speech,
language and articulation tests.
The researchers found that the more
a hearing aid improved a child s hear-
ing, the better he or she scored on
the tests. And the longer kids had
worn a hearing aid, the better their
scores---especially among those whose
hearing improved most with a hearing
The relationship held true for kids
with varying degrees of hearing loss,
according to findings published in
JAMA Otolaryngology---Head & Neck
"That may be because hearing aids
bring those with severe hearing loss
up to moderate levels, and those with
moderate loss up to mild," co-author
J Bruce Tomblin, of the University of
Iowa in Iowa City, told Reuters Health.
"The change in hearing is about the
"Kids with mild losses can appear
as though they re getting along okay
so it s easier to be casual about it,"
he said. "But hearing aids do in fact
have an influence."
The speech assessment scores kids
on a scale similar to an IQ test, he
said, and hearing aids seem to take
kids from somewhere in the low-aver-
age area to "very much average."
That s not to say kids can t "catch
up" in their speech and language
development if they start using hear-
ing aids later on, Tomblin said. Some
researchers argue that early childhood
is a "critical period" for kids exposure
to language, but he said he doesn t
necessarily subscribe to that theory.
There is now the technology to fit
hearing aids for children as young as
one-month-old, Moeller said, and
these results suggest the earlier a child
gets a hearing aid, the better.
Hearing aids must be well-fitted
by an audiologist, as they were in this
study, she said. Fitting a child with
a stronger hearing aid than necessary
can further damage hearing.
Kids with mild hearing loss can
benefit from hearing aids beyond
improvements in speech and language;
their quality of life and overall func-
tioning often improve as well, said
Dr= Judith E. Cho Lieu.
Lieu, a paediatric otolaryngologist
at Washington University School of
Medicine in St Louis, Missouri, was
not involved with the new study.
Still, "Placement of hearing aids
alone is not sufficient for acquisition
of normal speech and language," Lieu
told Reuters Health in an e-mail.
"There are likely to be multiple
other factors that were not included
in this study s analysis that affect
speech and language development in
young children," she said. Those could
include kids race and thinking and
memory skills, for instance.
The new results do not apply to
deaf children, who were not the sub-
ject of the study, Tomblin noted. Deaf
children may learn American Sign
Language or receive cochlear implants,
but hard-of-hearing children do not
qualify for cochlear implants, he said.
"The impact of these language skills
we re talking about have not gone into
effect in schooling yet," since the study
only addressed kids up to age five, he
"We hypothesise that the benefits
may be even better in the classroom,
since language skills are so important
for learning," he said.
Hearing aids for children can cost
around $8,500, but prices vary widely
by brand, Moeller said.
The benefit the child gets is prob-
ably worth the cost, Tomblin said.
"The big message for parents and
for paediatricians and others is to help
reinforce the importance that the child
gets a hearing aid, that it is well fit,
and that the child wears it," he said.
Hearing aids could improve
children's speech, language
The researchers found
that the more a hearing
aid improved a child's
hearing, the better he or
she scored on the tests.
And the longer kids had
worn a hearing aid, the
better their scores---
especially among those
whose hearing improved
most with a hearing aid.
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