Children often suffer with some hearing loss during the first few years of life. This is commonly caused by a collection of fluid behind the eardrum known as glue ear. This reduces the ability of the hearing organ to pick up sounds. It can fluctuate, even day to day. This can lead to problems with listening (which is a different skill from hearing), even later in life.
If this type of deafness persists for some time in children, it can lead to difficulty with learning and behavioural problems. For example:
- Difficulty listening
- Delayed speech development and poor pronunciation
- Lack of confidence, and difficulty when required to multi-task
- Reduced social interaction with peers and poor behaviour
These difficulties can return at puberty, when life often becomes more demanding.
How can you help to improve listening skills?
STOP, LOOK, LISTEN!
Make sure your child is looking at your face and then speak clearly, minimising background noise or distractions.
- Stop your child from what they are doing, get down to their level and make sure they are looking at your face so that you have their full attention
- Speak a little more slowly but do not exaggerate your mouth movements
- Limit background noise and other distractions when you speak
- Use short sentences. Children with poor listening skills often miss bits of words and whilst trying to work out what they missed, don’t listen to the next part of the sentence
- Make sure teachers, family, friends etc know how to help
- Sing! This is wonderful, stress free listening training for children
- Listening to talking books can help auditory memory
- Play listening games eg The shopping list game: “I went to the shop and I bought a pot of jam”……”I went to the shop and I bought a pot of jam and some biscuits” etc
A number of adults have difficulty hearing speech in background noise eg using the phone in a noisy office. This may be partly due to early hearing problems and consequent abnormal listening strategies. Recognition of this condition and working on their listening skills as a young child may well help to reduce these problems later in life.