Speech & Language

Language has two components, ‘receptive’ language (the ability to hear and understand) and ‘expressive’ language (the ability to speak understandably). Correct hearing and auditory processing both underpin the proper development of these components. Spoken language in particular is a highly developed skill. It involves the use of the hearing organs (the ears) and the parts of the brain that deal with hearing, understanding, sound production and converting thoughts into speech.

Speech & language difficulties affect many children in their early years and can go on into adulthood. The majority will understand language very well, but may be unable to produce language correctly or at all.

There is a wide range of possible speech & language difficulties:

  • Difficulty understanding language
  • Difficulty producing and using speech
  • Articulation difficulties
  • Stammering and stuttering
  • Speaking with a lisp
  • Giving delayed responses
  • Difficulty using correct language

Where a child or adult does not speak at all, or to a very limited degree only, after the age that speech is normally acquired, and where this is not due to an obvious physical problem, close attention must be given to how the person hears and processes sounds. If the person did not hear correctly at the critical early times when speech and language is being laid down, for example due to ear infections or glue ear, then the person cannot be expected to produce what was never heard correctly or at all.

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.

Retraining of how a person hears and processes sounds must form the basis of any effective long-lasting solution and must precede any other form of remedial support.

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