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How Does Hearing Loss Affect Speech?

How Does Hearing Loss Affect Speech?

The effects of hearing loss extend far beyond the inability to hear properly. Not only can untreated hearing loss lead to feelings of isolation, depression, and increase the risk of cognitive decline, but hearing loss can also affect your speech.

When children have hearing loss, their ability to develop critical language skills can be impaired, as well as finding it difficult to communicate at all. For adults who develop hearing loss later in life, their speech and language centers in the brain can become compromised by untreated hearing loss.

Our doctors of audiology hear at Hearing & Balance Doctors have helped people of all ages manage their hearing loss, and can speak to the impact that treating hearing loss has on a person’s speech.

Impact Of Hearing Loss On Children’s Speech

Determining if your child has hearing loss—and treating it if hearing loss is present—is critical to your child’s ability to develop speech and language skills. Depending on the level of hearing loss, the impact on your child can vary.

For instance, if your child has mild hearing loss, they may have difficulty with tonal intonation, take longer to develop vocabulary, and can present difficulties with pronouncing certain sounds that have a sh, f, k, s, and t.

Children with higher degrees of hearing loss may also speak too loudly, as they cannot hear their own volume levels. These children may also have difficulty understanding speech that uses abstract words—such as words that describe emotions—as well as words that contain multiple meanings. As their brains are not able to fully hear the various tonal inflections and explanations for different words, vital speech and language skills can be lost.

Using hearing loss treatments such as hearing aids, cochlear implants, reconstructive surgery, and other options will highly depend on what type of hearing loss is present.

How Hearing Loss Affects Adults’ Speech

While it is clear that hearing loss can affect the speech of children, many adults are surprised to find out that hearing loss can impact their speech as well.

For one thing, it makes sense that hearing loss impacts the speech of someone who already has fully developed their language skills. When hearing loss is present, it can be difficult to hear and communicate with others. Often, background sounds can muddy the clarity of sounds you are trying to hear. Then, if you have high-frequency hearing loss, you may miss what the speakers are saying if they have higher-pitched voices.

Along with these clear impacts, untreated hearing loss can also degrade your cognitive ability to hear and recognize speech. To help you understand how this works, we need to talk about the brain.

There are areas of your brain that coordinate to receive auditory input from your auditory nerve, allowing for the things you hear to be processed, understood, and memory stored. But, when your auditory nerve isn’t sending as much information, those areas of your brain atrophy from lack of use. This atrophy damages the area of the brain that is used to comprehend speech, which can leave you with an inability to understand certain words and concepts.

For sensorineural hearing loss, the recommended treatment is the use of hearing aids. The sooner both adults and children are treated for hearing loss, the better.

Treat Hearing Loss Early

While the consequences of not treating hearing loss can be highly impactful on a person’s speech, these effects are not a done deal. The sooner hearing loss is treated—in both children and adults—the less likely that it will affect speech.

To tackle your hearing loss or hearing loss of a loved one, the first step is to have a hearing evaluation. With a diagnostic hearing test, our audiologists will be able to determine if hearing loss is present and what impact it has had.

Contact us to schedule your hearing appointment today at any one of our many convenient hearing clinics. We are ready to help get your hearing back on track!

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