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Suffolk Center for Speech

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Ear Infections and Speech/Language Development

Otitis media is a generic term used to indicate an inflammatory process in the middle ear cavity, also known as an  “ear infection.” Specifically, the most prevalent ear infection in early childhood is Otitis Media with Effusion, which is defined as an ear infection with fluid in the middle ear cavity. With effusion, most children develop a slight to mild, flat conductive hearing loss that is temporary or fluctuating. The range of this loss is in the speech frequencies at roughly 30-40 decibels, which includes our speech sounds (Diagram below).  Many children who experience recurring or repeat ear infections go on to have normal hearing and normal language. However, a higher percentage of children who have repeated episodes of ear infections are found to have delayed language development or specific language impairment.

Suffolk Center for Speech

It is crucial to treat repeat ear infections as this fluctuating and/or minimal hearing loss during the early years may present the child with a speech signal that is more diffuse and thus more difficult to process. If repeat ear infections occur in the first year of a child’s life, this can be crucial on language development as the infant/toddler is establishing speech and language categories. In addition, persistent middle ear disease during the first 2-3 years of life can produce detrimental effects in:

  • Social behaviors
  • Academic performance
  • Speech and language development
    • Reduced verbal IQ’s
    • Reduced auditory reception
    • Poorer spelling

Taylor Howell, MS, CF-SLP, TSSLD

by Suffolk Center for Speech | with 0 Comments

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