* November 2019It's that time of year for seasonal allergies, sinus congestion, and head colds to appear, so let's look at ear infections and learning. A parent posted the following:"My son has had ear infections since he was a tiny infant, and now he doesn’t say his words clearly. Can this be because of the many ear infections he has had?"People with hearing loss can typically detect sound at a 0 dB hearing level. The presence of middle ear fluid or infection behind the eardrum causes some blockage to sound. Some children may have 10-15 dB of hearing loss, while others may have up to 50 dB of hearing loss. When you plug your ears with your fingers you give yourself about a 20 dB hearing loss. People talking at a normal conversational loudness usually talk at about 45 dB, so having 50 dB of hearing loss would mean that only speech that was loud or very close to the child would be heard. Children with long histories of ear problems that do not resolve on their own are likely to have more hearing loss than children with fewer ear problems that cleared up on their own or after one period of taking medications. Ear infections, if untreated too long, can also result in the growth of cholesteatomas. A cholesteatoma is an abnormal, noncancerous skin growth that can develop in the middle section of your ear, behind the eardrum, and is most commonly caused by repeated middle ear infections. Other permanent damage can also be caused from longstanding hearing loss due to middle ear infections.
Information about fluctuating hearing loss (ear infections) and how it may impact social situations and education:
FLUCTUATING HEARING LOSS
Possible Impact on the Understanding of Language and Speech
Possible Social Impact
Potential Educational Accommodations and Services
· Of greatest concern are children who have experienced hearing fluctuations over many months in early childhood (multiple episodes with fluid lasting three months or longer).
· Listening with a hearing loss that is approximately 20 dB can be compared to hearing when index fingers are placed in ears.
· This loss or worse is typical of listening with fluid or infection behind the eardrums.
· Child can "hear" but misses fragments of what is said. Degree of difficulty experienced in school will depend upon the classroom noise level, the distance from the teacher and the current degree of hearing loss.
· At 30 dB can miss 25-40% of the speech signal.
· A child with a 40 dB loss associated with "glue ear" may miss 50% of class discussions, especially when voices are faint or speaker is not in line of vision.
· Child with this degree of hearing loss will frequently miss unstressed words, consonants and word endings.
· Barriers begin to build with negative impact on self esteem as the child is accused of "hearing when he/she wants to," "daydreaming," or "not paying attention."
· Child may believe he/she is less capable due to understanding difficulties in class.
· Typically poor at identifying changes in own hearing ability. With inconsistent hearing, the child learns to "tune out" the speech signal.
· Children are judged to have greater attention problems, insecurity, distractibility and lack self esteem.
· Tend to be non-participative and distract themselves from classroom tasks; often socially immature.
· Impact is primarily on acquisition of early reading skills and attention in class.
· Screening for language delays is suggested from a young age.
· Ongoing monitoring for hearing loss in school, communication between parent and teacher about listening difficulties and aggressive medical management is needed.
· Will benefit from sound-field FM or an assistive listening device in class.
· May need attention to development of speech, reading, self esteem, or listening skills.
· Teacher inservice is beneficial.