Published: 09th October 2017
Hear this: 1 in 4 children who have trouble reading might be suffering from hearing trouble. Get it checked NOW
The study found that children with repeated ear infections had difficulty with phonology and coupled with mild hearing loss can find it difficult to cope with the syllabus
Parents, take note! If your child has difficulty reading, get them screened for hearing problems, as a study has found that 25 per cent of kids with reading difficulties suffered hearing impairment. According to researchers from Coventry University in the UK, more awareness of youngsters' hearing problems could lead to more structured support to improve their reading and writing skills.
The study compared children with dyslexia to youngsters who had a history of repeated ear infections to see if they had a similar pattern of literacy difficulties. A total of 195 children aged between eight and 10 — including 36 with dyslexia and 29 with a history of repeated ear infections — completed a series of tests to establish their reading and writing skills and how they used the structures of words based on their sounds and meanings, in speech and literacy.
They were retested 18 months later when a hearing screening was also carried out. None of the parents of the dyslexic children reported any knowledge of loss of hearing before the tests, but the screening showed that nine out of these 36 children had some form of hearing loss. Around one-third of the children who had repeated ear infections had problems reading and writing, although the researchers suggest repeat ear infections will only result in reading difficulties when accompanied by weaknesses in other areas.
The results showed that children with dyslexia have different patterns of literacy difficulties to children with a history of repeat ear infections, although there is some overlap between the groups. Children with dyslexia had difficulties with literacy activities involving the ability to manipulate speech sounds (known as phonology) and the knowledge of grammatical word structure (called morphology). Researchers said these youngsters need to be taught how to use morphology in a highly-structured step-by-step way to help them improve their literacy skills.
Children with a history of repeated ear infections mainly had problems with the phonology tasks; showing that they still had subtle difficulties with the perception of spoken language. "Many children in school may have an undetected mild hearing loss, which makes it harder for them to access the curriculum," said Helen Breadmore, from Coventry University.
"A mild-moderate hearing loss will make the perception of speech sounds difficult, particularly in a classroom environment with background noise and other distractions," Breadmore said. "Therefore, children who have suffered repeated ear infections and associated hearing problems have fluctuating access to different speech sounds precisely at the age when this information is crucial in the early stages of learning to read," she added.