Reading is crucial for your child’s brain—and yours. If your child is struggling to read and his eyesight is fine, don’t assume it’s a learning disability. There’s still one more screen to try before anyone starts muttering about ADHD: According to a new report from Coventry University in the UK, hearing problems can lead to reading difficulties.
In the new report, available via the Nuffield Foundation website, the researchers studied 195 kids between the ages of eight and 10; 36 of them had dyslexia. The team at the university’s Centre for Advances in Behavioural Science tested all the children on their reading and writing skills, including how they used the structures of words based on their sounds and meanings, in speech and literacy. The same tests were carried out 18 months later, at which time the children were also screened for hearing problems.
The researchers discovered that nine out of the 36 children with dyslexia had some form of hearing loss—though the parents and teachers had no idea. These children also had difficulties with phonology (the ability to manipulate speech sounds) and morphology (knowledge of grammatical word structure).
The researchers also monitored kids with frequent ear infections—there were 29, all told. Around one-third of these children had problems with reading and writing. However, the researchers suggest that repeat ear infections will only result in reading difficulties when accompanied by weaknesses in other areas—and most of the children’s issues were with phonology tasks, showing that they still had subtle difficulties with the perception of spoken language. (Check out these home remedies for an earache and ear infection.)
“Many children in school may have an undetected mild hearing loss, which makes it harder for them to access the curriculum,” says study author Helen Breadmore, PhD. “Current hearing screening procedures are not picking up these children, and we would advise that children have their hearing tested in more detail and more often.”
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communicative Disorders (NIDCD), all babies should have a hearing screening before they leave the hospital or birthing center. However, hearing loss can occur at any time, and some inherited forms of hearing loss may not appear until a child is older. Illness, ear infection, head injury, certain medications, and loud noise may also cause hearing loss in children. The NICDC recommends using Your Baby’s Hearing and Communicative Development Checklist to monitor and track your child’s communication milestones through age 5, and always talk to your pediatrician if you have concerns.
Here are tiny ways to encourage your child every day.