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Language development in children with hearing impairment

Language development in children with hearing impairment

January 4, 2023

The auditory system, as it happens in the rest of sensory modalities, It requires the input of sound stimulation to be produced in a normative way provided that the anatomical-functional development of the same is carried out correctly. The auditory system is composed of three sets of structures.

Therefore, it is important prevent the possible problems of language development in children with hearing impairments , since this vital stage is key in the formation of cognitive processes that interact with the use of abstract concepts and words. In this article we will review several keys to take into account in this regard.

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Linguistic development in children with hearing impairment

In the presence of a significant hearing impairment during childhood, the linguistic capacity can be affected in a very variable way depending on the area most affected, being able to differentiate between vocabulary, grammar, articulation, fluency, comprehension, pronunciation, etc.


In addition to the type of affectation that the child presents, the development of language is also influenced by the nature and quality of the communicative environment that surrounds it, therefore a greater linguistic ability seems to be achieved if the mother is a listener with respect to the case in which both the mother as the son are deaf.

More specifically, with regard to how the linguistic development of the deaf child occurs it is observed that, during the first 9 months, these babies have a level of vocalization similar to that of nondecoding children. At that time they begin to observe discrepancies about the quantity and quality of the oral productions of the children. This is because the baby does not receive enough environmental reinforcements to encourage him to make these verbalizations.


Broadly speaking, it can be said that the development of a deaf child with respect to another that is not deaf is carried out following the same phases in both cases, although in the deaf child it occurs more slowly. In the area of ​​syntax, many difficulties are observed , to the point that they do not come to dominate complex structures even at 18 years old (milestone that does occur in hearing children at the age of 8 years). Thus, the content of the utterances are simpler, with less significant content in plurals, prepositions, conjunctions or pronouns, as well as alterations in elements of the sentence such as plurals, verb tenses or gender.

The pronunciation is intensely altered in relation to intonation, rhythm, time, etc., in addition to other serious syntactic distortions. In terms of understanding, the child must use visual cues to help him understand the stimulation received. They also use lip-facial reading and other complementary methods that facilitate the differentiation between lip movements shared by different phonemes or phonemes that do not have visible labial movements.


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Differences in morphosyntactic development

The researches that have tried to study the differences that take place between the morphosyntactic development of a hearing child and another deaf show that it is second presents both deviations and delays in grammatical learning and morphosyntax, in particular.

In more detail, studies have found that the length of sentences is significantly lower in deaf children of 17 years with respect to those who manage to build hearing children of 8 years. Related to this, it has been found that deaf children do not elaborate complex sentences, unlike hearing children of 11 years, who begin to master this ability.

Further, the sentence constructions of children with hearing impairment are little syntactically varied and the use of adjectives, auxiliaries and conjunctions is less observed as opposed to a greater use of names and verbs (which can be attributed more meaning, so that the evocation to the concept they represent is more accessible), articles, pronouns and prepositions are also scarce in non-hearing children. Thus, the greatest differences between one group and another refer to the use of words "function".

Another group of research has found three main conclusions in the comparison between hearing and deaf children: for the latter it is much more complex the application of structures that include pronouns, the conjugation of verbs and the formation of extended sentences ; the deaf ones do not reach a complete development of the language to the 18 years although the evolution of the learning of the lengaje is progressively positive for simple phrases (not thus in the complex ones); the greatest number of errors are concentrated in the use of function words in the group of non-listeners.

Finally, at the neurophysiological level, other studies intend to analyze the level of specialization in the left hemisphere through the activity recorded by evoked potentials after the presentation of certain word lists.

The result obtained shows a discrepancy in the brain area activated during this task between the listeners and the deaf: the left anterior brain areas were activated by the words function, while the areas of the posterior parietal zones, both in the right hemisphere and in the left, they were activated for words with semantic content. Thus, it can be concluded that the ability of morphosyntactic domain depends on the modality in which the received linguistic stimulation occurs.

Orientations in the optimization of oral language learning

Silvestre (1998) has proposed a list of conditions considered optimal for Give yourself the oral language learning in an appropriate way .

1. Family involvement

A high frequency of exchanges between parents and children is recommended to enhance the stimulation received by this, ensuring a higher level of progress.

2. Early education care

In order to achieve the highest possible degree of development attending to the sensitive periods of myelination and neuronal plasticity.

3. Correct fitting of the hearing aid

Indispensable for a correct interaction between the child and the environment.

4. Early auditory reeducation

Essential for compensate as far as possible the deficiencies presented in each specific case.

5. Acquisition of lip-facial reading

It becomes a requirement for the understanding of the oral language received by the present speaker.

6. Communicative and cognitive development

Since there is a close relationship between organic and psychic development, action must be taken to prevent difficulties in the first (hearing impairment) from causing harm in the second (psychopathology or emotional or cognitive discomfort).

Bibliographic references:

  • Marchesi, A. (1987). Cognitive and linguistic development of deaf children. Madrid: Publishing Alliance.
  • Peña, J. (1992). Manual of speech therapy (3rd ed.). Barcelona: Masson.
  • Puyuelo, M., RONDAL, J., WIIG, E. (2002) Evaluation of the language.1 reprinting. Barcelona: Masson.
  • Puyelo, M. (2004) "Manual of the development of deafness" Barcelona. Masson
  • Silvestre, N. (1998) Deafness. Communication and learning. Barcelona. Masson

Outcomes of Children with Hearing Loss - Boys Town National Research Hospital (January 2023).


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