It’s a new school year in Louisville, and many parents are anxious to see their kids succeed. But if those first report cards are less than stellar, there may be an underlying neurological reason associated with hearing loss.
How Hearing Affects Schoolwork
A new study by researchers at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, published in the September 6 issue of the journal Ear and Hearing, found a connection between chronic conductive hearing loss and speech recognition deficits.
How are speech and hearing loss connected?
Middle ear infections, which are very common in children, may lead to hearing loss if not treated properly. This can lead to neural deficits and difficulty hearing in noisy environments.
Stéphane F. Maison, Ph.D., Principal Investigator and hearing scientist in the Eaton-Peabody Laboratories at Massachusetts Eye and Ear and an Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology Head-Neck Surgery at Harvard Medical School, explained the results of the group’s study.
“Chronic sound deprivation can lead to speech recognition difficulties consistent with cochlear synaptopathy, a condition also known as ‘hidden hearing loss.’ Accordingly, clinicians should consider providing amplification in the management of unilateral conductive hearing loss.”
Conductive hearing loss affects the middle and/or outer ear. It is associated with obstructions that prevent the transmission of sound waves from entering the inner ear. Common causes include ear infections, excess earwax, inflammation of the Eustachian tube, abnormal bone growth, eardrum perforation and barotrauma, unequal air pressure in the ears.
Is conductive hearing loss permanent?
The good news? Unlike sensorineural hearing loss, which is permanent, conductive hearing loss can often be reversed.
Middle ear infections are the most common reason for pediatric appointments and medication prescriptions for children in Louisville.
How common are ear infections in children?
About 75 percent of kids in Kentucky will experience one or more ear infections before the age of three. These infections may recur or persist for months at a time, leading to communication difficulties that remain even after the infection has cleared up.
New hearing studies confirm Dr. Maison’s original results
The study retroactively examined the hearing profiles of 240 patients who had visited the audiology department at Massachusetts Eye and Ear for either acute or chronic conductive hearing loss.
Those with long-term conductive hearing impairment categorized as moderate to moderately severe had lower speech-recognition scores on the affected ear than the healthy one, even when speech was loud enough to be clearly audible. This confirms earlier research performed by Dr. Maison in 2015, which showed that conductive hearing loss caused failure of the synaptic connections between the hair cells of the inner ear and the auditory nerve that are responsible for transmitting electrical signals to the brain for interpretation as sound in adult mice.
Dr. Maison’s research found that people with hearing loss in one ear were hesitant to seek treatment because they were still able to rely on their good ear. However, left untreated, speech perception worsens over time—and it’s possible that the good ear will eventually be affected, as well. Treatment is especially important given that asymmetric hearing loss in children is associated with higher rates of academic, social and behavioral problems.
What can you do if you suspect your child has hearing loss?
If your child’s schoolwork is suffering and you suspect hearing loss, contact an audiologist in Louisville for more information.
Related Hearing Loss Posts:
- Preventing Swimmer’s Ear in Louisville
- Facts for Louisville Parents with Deaf or Hard of Hearing Kids
- What you Should know about Eardrum Ruptures