Do you love a child who is a struggling reader? Many children with a history of recurrent middle ear infections are at a disadvantage when encountering letter sounds and words in print. This is why…
Almost all children will experience an ear infection at some point in their early development. The incidence of acute otitis media and middle ear effusion has proven to be particularly high among children, ages 1-3 years old. Even as an audiologist, I sometimes missed my daughter’s ear infections. When children are pre-verbal, they cannot communicate that your speech is muffled or it sounds like they’re listening underwater. This is important because children with ear infections often have decreased sensitivity to sound and these early years are critical times for developing listening and language skills. So what does this have to do with reading? Let’s break it down.
The LISTENING CONNECTION
LISTENING-LANGUAGE-LITERACY! This is the hierarchy for developing effective literacy skills. When a child hears well during their early development, they are able to develop listening skills that allow her or him to recognize and produce finite differences in speech sounds. Ear infections interrupt this process. Children who have even slight hearing losses due to ear infections often fail to learn the precise timing of speech sounds. This timing or temporal processing of individual speech utterances play an important role in the development of speech perception. The process of rapidly deciphering the timing of each individual speech sound, syllable, word, and phrase must be automatic to understand language efficiently and to remember the language one has heard or read. Furthermore, children with a history of reduced hearing have increased difficulty understanding speech in noise. This is why many children with auditory processing disorders have difficulty following directions or remembering newly learned material. They haven’t yet developed the auditory memory skills to hold onto this new information long enough to comprehend it.
Check back next month when we’ll talk about The LANGUAGE and LITERACY CONNECTION to auditory learning and reading.