The Dragonfly Story

Language Development

Inconsistent hearing loss may cause language deficits because the child:

  • is continually using a different input base from which to enter rules of language;
  • may miss or not entirely hear sounds. For example “elephant” may be heard as “effa”, and
  • may hear sounds differently from one time to another.

As a consequence it is suggested that the usual learning strategies may become disorganised and ineffective, causing delays in the maturity of a child’s sound system. This means that language is a system in which to learn the rules of the system, you must have consistent input.

Listening skills

It is also suggested that children with a history of conductive hearing loss in early infancy are likely to have problems with their listening skills that will further complicate the child’s language development.

Many children with a history of conductive hearing loss become very tired from continually trying to hear the sounds around them. This may result in a child giving up trying and simply switching off to what’s going on around him or her.

The importance of listening skills and the effect of conductive hearing loss is an area that is often over looked. Children with a history of conductive hearing loss need to be given plenty of practice at developing effective listening skills. Without these skills a child will have difficulty with language and literacy development.

Cultural differences

An Indigenous child with repeated long term hearing loss may enter school with significant gaps in his or her language because of the effects of OM.

The presence of existing language gaps in a child’s home language demonstrates that the child may have already been affected with OM and may be experiencing difficulties building basic language rules and associations in his or her own language. This situation may be compounded if the child is required to learn a second language, such as English, upon entering school. As well as being confronted with the need to learn another language, the introduction to a western culture and classroom may be foreign to the child and have a significant impact on the child’s development.

When working with Indigenous children, we must recognise that they’ll often exhibit different behaviour when listening.  In a western culture we often judge if a child is listening by the way that they focus on the person speaking. This may not be appropriate for Indigenous children who may actually be hearing despite appearing not to be looking directly at the teacher, be restless or looking around. Teachers and care givers working with Indigenous children must be aware of these cultural differences and develop appropriate strategies for developing the listening skills for the children in their care.