Q: Why does a unilateral hearing loss cause my child to have problems if they hear normally from the other ear?
A: Since infant hearing screenings have become more common, hearing loss is being identified very early on. Out of every 1,000 births, two babies are identified with a hearing loss in one ear. The child may demonstrate difficulties, and it becomes a concern for parents and teachers alike.
Hearing—and understanding what is heard—in noise is harder because the ambient noise masks the clarity of the speech sounds. As we all know, language development occurs early on and children will repeat what they hear whether they hear it clearly or not. With the presence of a hearing loss, speech is not heard clearly, which makes it harder to develop clear speech. Auditory signals are a challenge when the voice is soft or deep, making it a task for the child to hear and understand speech.
Let us not forget the importance of localizing sounds. Try plugging one of your ears and closing your eyes. Can you identify where sound is coming from? Now think of a child in a typical classroom, which is usually not quiet, and how frustrating it is trying to identify where sound is coming from because they don’t hear the same in both ears. It’s important to make listening easier by moving away from noises, positioning the normal-hearing ear toward the sound source, and minimizing the distance for them.
It’s also a good recommendation to consult with an audiologist to determine the extent of hearing loss and possible treatment, which may include a hearing aid, surgical intervention, and/or aural rehabilitation.
Keep in mind that the early years are important for speech development, so it’s important to take unilateral hearing loss seriously.❦