Early access to sound is the key to linguistic development
Children require a lot of things to acquire speech as they grow. Chief among these? Exposure to sound – specifically spoken language, as early access to sound promotes optimal speech and language learning. The best way to ensure they receive this access is by providing hard of hearing youngsters with premium hearing care as soon as possible.
The role of sound in childhood development
From infancy through early childhood, we pick up language through daily exposure to spoken words, eventually reaching the stage where we begin to speak and repeat those words. Research indicates that children need to hear and understand how words are used contextually — and hear themselves repeat those words — to achieve comprehension and the ability to use language clearly and accurately.
Although sound enters through the ears, hearing occurs in the brain — particularly language processing. Physically, the growth of a child’s auditory brain center requires regular sound stimulation, without which they might never fully develop the ability to process and comprehend language. Kids whose hearing loss goes untreated will typically experience linguistic developmental delays and struggle to make themselves understood verbally throughout their lives.
Difficulty hearing contributes to educational and social challenges
Unless they attend a school for the deaf and hard of hearing, children with unaided hearing loss will likely experience significant difficulties learning. Mainstream schools require kids to listen to lessons in the classroom, directions during playground and sports activities, and engage verbally with teachers and classmates throughout the day. Those who cannot hear often fall behind their peers, especially if they are held back a grade. Combined with frustrations stemming from straining to hear and communicate daily, academic delays can lead to youngsters withdrawing, avoiding in-school socializing and extracurricular activities. Feelings of isolation and being overwhelmed academically could contribute to negative lifelong issues like loneliness, depression, and low self-esteem.
Aiding children who have conductive hearing loss
While traditional hearing aids can help many children, some kids require greater assistance – a bone anchored hearing system (BAHS) – because they are missing all or some of the organs required for natural hearing (i.e., conductive hearing loss). This presents parents with an additional challenge, as children typically must reach the age of five before they can receive an implant, plus many parents need insurance coverage to afford them. Since we develop many of our fundamental language skills before five, this creates a treatment gap that could permanently affect linguistic development.
Fortunately, BAHS can be used to help children even before implantation. Babies and toddlers can wear the devices with a softband, which is basically a head band that holds the BAHS processor against their skull without surgery. While skin contact doesn’t provide the same level of amplification as when the processor is affixed to an abutment, a child will still receive significant developmental benefits, such as early acquisition of the building blocks of language and the ability to participate more easily in the world around them.
However, the question of affording the processors remains, as insurers often take some time to approve coverage of these necessary devices.
What to do while waiting for insurance coverage
You might find yourself frustrated while waiting for your insurer to approve your child’s BAHS, especially after being told all the benefits of early-as-possible treatment. Fortunately, Oticon Medical offers an option while you’re awaiting insurance approval, so you can get your child the hearing device they need now: the Ponto™ Loaner Program. This program is designed to help your child receive the premium hearing care they need to thrive without delay.
The program provides Ponto sound processors and softbands for children from birth to five years of age who require direct amplification to hear speech and sounds. Your child will benefit by being given the ability to hear sounds during their critical early years, enabling them to participate actively in the world around them while you’re awaiting third-party reimbursement approval.
For details on how to enroll in the loaner program, please speak to your audiologist or feel free to contact us.
Gabrielle Simone is a Clinical Territory Manager in New England with Oticon Medical. She has worked in private practice and hospital settings and has a specialization in clinical application for hearing aids and cochlear implants. For the past 6 years, Gabrielle has worked as a Training and Education Specialist for the Northeast and Western New York region, for Widex and Oticon. In this role, she provided technical, clinical, and product support to audiologists and hearing instrument specialists (HIS). She also served as an adjunct professor at Northeastern University in the AuD program. An alumna of Emerson College, she earned her M.S. in Audiology from the University of Connecticut and her Doctor of Audiology from the University of Florida. In her current position with Oticon Medical, she provides clinical, technical and sales support to physicians, audiologists, and hospital personnel.
 Committee on the Science of Children Birth to Age 8: Deepening and Broadening the Foundation for Success; Board on Children, Youth, and Families; Institute of Medicine; National Research Council; Allen LR, Kelly BB, editors. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2015 Jul 23. 4, Child Development and Early Learning. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK310550/  Early Intervention and Language Development in Children Who Are Deaf and Hard of Hearing Mary Pat Moeller Pediatrics Sep 2000, 106 (3) e43; DOI: 10.1542/peds.106.3.e43  Vogel, S. & Schwabe, L. (2016). Learning and memory under stress: implications for the classroom. npj Science of Learning 1, Article number: 16011  Theunissen SC, Rieffe C, Netten AP, et al. Self-esteem in hearing-impaired children: the influence of communication, education, and audiological characteristics. PLoS One. 2014;9(4):e94521. Published 2014 Apr 10. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0094521