Speech Therapy

Ear Infections In childhood Might Affect Speech

In the United States, 1 in every 22 infants suffer from some kind of hearing problem; 83 in every 1000 children show a significant hearing loss that can affect education. In the US, the health costs in treating otitis media have been reported to be $ 3-5 billion every year.

“It’s important to catch and treat hearing problems early in a child’s life.” -says, “the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA)”.

The most common type of hearing illness in children is Otitis Media. It is an inflammation caused in the middle ear behind the eardrum. It is of two types and can occur in either or both ears:

  • Acute Otitis Media: It results in stagnation of fluid in the ear even after the infection is cured.
  • Otitis Media With Effusion: The fluid is not infected in this case. When the small tube between the throat and the ear gets blocked due to cold in the child, The fluid gets build up in the middle ear.

Most children suffer from at least one episode of otitis media by they complete their first year after birth. And more than 10% of children suffer from otitis media more than three times, where the fluid lasts for a month on an average in each episode. Persistent ear fluid is commonly seen in children below two years and in few older ones.

The passage between the middle ear and the back of the throat is named as the ‘Eustachian Tube’. This tube is very narrow and small in children than in adults. it appears nearly horizontal in children. So it can get blocked more easily by infections and other health conditions. By the time, this tube grows in angle and size, the susceptibility to Otitis Media also reduces. This can occur only when the child grows in age.

Common Signs of Otitis Media:

  • Regular pulling of ear by the child
  • Frequent complaints of hurting ears.
  • Drainage from ear
  • Fever (common in acute otitis media)
  • Irritability
  • Poor sleep

No symptoms are seen among children with Otitis Media with Effusion. So any sickness in your child must be evaluated by the doctor.

How can Otitis Media affect hearing?

The space in the middle ear behind the eardrum contains air. When this space gets filled with fluid, it restricts the bones to vibrate properly. There are three tiny bones inside our middle ear. They cause sound vibrations that pass through the middle ear. The fluid reduces this passage of sound. As a results a mild hearing loss for a temporary period which lasts up to the fluid gets out. The child may feel as if his ears have been plugged. Some may not have nay change in their hearing ability. But when your child is very young and at the age of learning, please conduct evaluations for hearing and speech and language. However on regular occurrence of otitis media, permanent damage can occur to the eardrum, bones or even the hearing nerve leading to a complete hearing loss.

  • Mild Hearing Loss: A child would be able to hear sounds the beginnings and the ends of words faintly or may not hear at all. As these words are softly spoken in comparison to others. They would be able to hear words spoken quickly like – and etc.
  • Moderate Hearing Loss: The child might have difficulty in hearing short and softly spoken words. The word endings may be ignored.

Recognize If Your Child Has Hearing Loss:

  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Showing delayed or no response to your words
  • Often using words like ‘huh?’
  • Unable to follow directions effectively
  • Turning up the sound on equipments like radios, TV, music players etc.
  • Withdrawing itself from peers
  • Getting over-active or behaving uncooperative

Language Learning Affected By Otitis Media:

The first three years in a child is a very critical phase in the child development. In this period the child learns to speak. If a child suffers from Otitis Media in this phase, their ability to learn and understand gets interrupted. The child cannot get the entire benefit of the language learning experience. The child learns speaking by listening to what others speak and talk.

Steps Taken Against The Hearing, Speech And Language Problem Caused Due To Otitis Media:

  • Any type of ear infections require immediate attention. Consult a Pediatrician or Otolaryngologist (ear doctor). Also consult an audiologist and a speech-language pathologist if your child undergoes infections and/or chronic fluid frequently in its middle ear. An audiologist will evaluate the severity of hearing loss. A speech-language pathologist will measure specific speech and language skills in the child. Both of them would guide and advise programs and treatment accordingly.
  • The development of speech-language and hearing capabilities must be carefully monitored in a child with recurring ear infections. Always make sure if your child is receiving appropriate treatment for any ear infections. Keep a close eye on the progress in developing speech and hearing capabilities after starting of the treatment.
  • Be in regular touch with the speech and language pathologist.
  • Do consult an ear-nose-and-throat specialist, if recommended by your audiologist. They will together monitor the hearing and listening abilities of the child. The presence of fluid in the middle ear can be determined by them by the technique called tympanogram. They will plan out strategies for development and treatment.
  • Follow all the advices by your physicians and specialists very strictly.

Treating Otitis Media:

  • Antibiotics may be prescribed by the health care provider.
  • Surgery can be done by an ear-nose-throat specialist doctor. A tube is put in the ear of the child if he has lots of hearing infections. This tube will help the air to enter the space of the middle ear. The lining of the middle ear will then return to the normal state . The tube will also help in preventing further infections. The tube stays for 6-12 months in general until it falls out by itself.
  • A speech-language pathologist examines the speech and language skills in the child. Thereby, recommending and remedial programs.

Always remember “early detection is the key to long-term success in curing health issues”.

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