Reading Difficulties and Hearing Loss in Children

Cute boy reading book in library

Hearing plays a critical role in speech, language development, communication, and learning. Academic delays caused by a hearing loss often lead to learning problems. According to recent information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 1.3 of 1000 8-year-olds have bilateral hearing loss of 40 decibels (dB) or more which profoundly affects their ability to learn. Numerous studies show early intervention as being the key to increase academic performance in healthy and hearing-impaired children. New research agrees with the idea of early intervention and suggests that children with reading difficulties need a thorough screening for possible hearing problems.

Undiagnosed Problems

Unfortunately, many school-aged children have undiagnosed hearing problems while they are learning to read. Children who have undiagnosed hearing problems have a good chance of becoming struggling readers. They develop vocabulary more slowly and struggle with sentence structure. These are two critical components of reading. There are standard signs of hearing issues that include:

  • You frequently have to raise your voice to get your child’s attention.
  • Your child complains of ear pain or pulls on the ear.
  • Your youngster observes your face when you speak and may even turn her head so that one ear faces the direction of your voice.
  • The child asks you to repeat things frequently.
  • Your child speaks in a soft or loud voice.
  • Television sets and CD players are turned up to high volumes.
  • Your child often confuses sounds that are alike.
  • Your child may verbalize a dislike for school or not pay attention at school.


Recognizing and addressing a child’s hearing problem may help their reading difficulties.The researchers feel that awareness of a child’s hearing impairment is the key to providing the necessary support for reading success. The research study concludes that 25% of the young participants with reading difficulties also demonstrated a mild or moderate hearing loss of which teachers and parents were unaware. More awareness of children’s hearing problems could lead to an increase in structured support to improve these children’s reading ability.

Parental Support

Do you or your child’s teacher suspect that your child might have a hearing problem? If so, visit your pediatrician for a check-up. The child may have an ear infection that requires immediate attention. Have a thorough exam to check the child’s hearing by a hearing healthcare professional. Obtain the services of a speech-language pathologist to develop a remedial program for the child’s hearing loss. A directory provided by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) can help you find qualified professionals in your area. You can be a great help to your child as well. Here are a few tips for parents when reading to children with a hearing loss:

  • Read as many books as possible to your child.
  • If your child needs visual support, sit side-by-side and encourage the child to listen and watch your face as you read. Repeat the line while tracing the words with your finger. Repeat the page with your child tracing the words.
  • Ask the child questions about the story and consider having your child repeat the plot of the story to relatives and friends.
  • If your child uses sign language, be sure to sign the story as you read.

The process of learning to read is challenging for all children but is especially daunting for the child with a hearing problem. This research indicates that it is critical to test children early and often for hearing impairment. If you sense that your child is experiencing the signs and symptoms of a hearing loss, please address the problem with a professional today.

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