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As the name of our Centre implies, this is a key area of the work that we do. We see many clients with no, or limited, expression of speech and the root cause is often linked to the way these clients hear.
What have a hoover and a hairdryer in common?
They are both electrical appliances and both start with an “H”, but what we’re really interested in is the scores of children and adults that we see who find it very difficult to tolerate the sound of these two common household items. This over-sensitivity to sound may also be encountered in supermarkets, school dining halls, on the street, on public transport or may even be triggered by the sound of someone’s voice.
Hearing is the key sense for acquiring receptive and expressive language and deficiencies or imbalances in hearing often express themselves in difficulties with speech and language, but may also influence many other areas, such as concentration, behaviour and emotional state.
Standard hearing tests often report that the hearing is “within normal limits”. The ‘normal limits’, however, mostly exclude any hypersensitivity, allow for a very wide range on the hearing-loss side and ignore any distortions. The reason why most standard hearing tests are so limited is that they are designed to assess if there is sufficient hearing loss to warrant a hearing aid. The influence of hypersensitivity or a distorted hearing profile on speech acquisition is rarely acknowledged.
In the first instance you often can get a reasonable evaluation of how the hearing is performing by simple observations you can make yourself. These can play a key role in uncovering what may lie behind learning, sensory, developmental or emotional difficulties.
Here we outline some typical behaviours that often are the result of the hearing system not working properly:
- Stressed when in a noisy environment
- Startles at unexpected sounds
- Covers ears at certain sounds
- Regularly “switches off” or “tunes out”
- Requires repetition before understanding
- Often misinterprets verbal instructions
- Has difficulty with following sequential verbal instructions
- Needs time to process verbal instructions
- Uses Echolalia (literally repeating words)
- Speaks incomprehensibly
- Makes constant sounds or noises
- Grinds teeth
- Began to speak but regressed
- Does not speak or is late starting to speak
- Has a very limited vocabulary
- Speaks hesitantly
- Has a flat or monotonous voice
- Cannot sing in tune
- Speaks with a lisp or speech impediment
- Stutters or stammers
- Confuses syllable sequences
- Has difficulty reading silently
- Has difficulty reading aloud
- Has difficulty comprehending written materials
- Has difficulty with spelling
- Listens mainly with left ear
Each typical behaviour on its own may not be meaningful. However, where there is a cluster of indicators, possibly across a number of senses, and the person has learning, sensory, developmental or emotional difficulties, these can indicate that one or more of the senses are out of balance.