Is there a link between hearing loss and behavioral disorders in children?

According to the World Health Organization, hearing loss affects over 34 million children worldwide. Hearing loss has a significant effect on the language development of these children. While most hearing professionals educate the families of children with hearing loss about the language and developmental effects of hearing loss, they often do not discuss behavioral challenges.
Over recent years, 36 studies have investigated the connection between hearing loss and behavioral problems in children. These studies vary in the specific factors they considered, such as whether the children were treated for hearing loss (such as using hearing aids) and which type of hearing loss treatment the children received. Despite the differences in the particulars of the studies, all of the research indicates that children with hearing loss are likely to display behavioral disorders.
Interestingly, these studies did not find a correlation between hearing loss treatment and a decrease in evidence of behavioral disorders. Even when the children used hearing aids or cochlear implants, they still displayed symptoms of internalizing behavioral disorders. This type of behavioral disorder is characterized by anxious behavior, low self-esteem, emotional and social withdrawal, and depressive symptoms.
While no studies found that hearing loss treatment reduced evidence of internalizing behavioral disorders, two studies that focused on children with cochlear implants discovered that cochlear implantation helped reduce externalized behavioral disorders. This kind of behavioral disorder is characterized by outwardly defiant, destructive, aggressive, and impulsive behavior.
This growing body of research indicates that hearing loss is closely tied to behavior disorders, particularly internalizing behavioral disorders. Although numerous studies have been conducted on this topic, little research has been done on the efficacy of intervention for these behavioral disorders. One study showed that play therapy, or filial therapy, was effective in addressing behavioral problems in children with hearing loss. However, little other research on intervention among children with hearing loss has been conducted thus far.
Furthermore, most hearing professionals do not assess behavioral disorders in children with hearing loss. While most hearing care professionals are familiar with the connection between hearing loss and language development, many are unfamiliar with the link between hearing loss and behavioral disorders. Because of this disconnect in professional education and awareness, many children with hearing loss are not evaluated for behavioral disorders and do not receive intervention.
In addition, many children and families are already busy with speech therapy, hearing care appointments, and the other necessities and challenges that arise with having a child with hearing loss. Adding therapy or another type of treatment for behavioral disorders may feel like an additional strain on the family and child’s time and efforts.
However, it is apparent that more must be done to properly evaluate children with hearing loss for behavioral disorders and to provide the treatment they need. When these behavioral issues are left untreated, they can contribute to negative social and educational outcomes later in life.
We believe that evaluating and treating children for both hearing loss and behavioral disorders is necessary. Our caring team is dedicated to ensuring that your child receives the comprehensive treatment he or she needs. We invite you to contact our office today to learn more about us and our services.


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