Hearing loss is a surprisingly prevalent issue among children, but did you know that it’s also been linked to behavioral disorders? According to the World Health Organization, hearing loss affects about 32 million young people around the world, about 60% of whom have preventable hearing loss.
For those children who have hearing loss, especially those for whom hearing loss goes untreated, new research is showing us that they may also be at risk for developing a number of different behavioral disorders. Even for children whose hearing loss is treated with hearing aids or cochlear implants, behavioral disorders remain a significant barrier to their social and educational development.
According to researchers at the University of Kentucky, there is a substantial link between childhood hearing loss and behavioral disorders. The researchers arrived at this conclusion by reviewing 36 different studies that looked at this interesting connection between childhood hearing loss and behavioral disorders.
These studies used a wide variety of different tools to asses behavioral issues and included children of a multitude of different age groups and backgrounds, as well as different types and levels of hearing loss. The being said, most of the studies assessed a child’s behavior using metrics known as the Child Behavior Checklist, the Vineland Behavior Adaptive Scale, and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire.
Moreover, a substantial proportion of the studies (approximately one-third) looked at children with permanent hearing loss that was actively being treated by hearing aids or cochlear implants. This means that the studies also accounted for children whose hearing loss was being managed and not just those with untreated hearing loss. Thus, the findings of this research are applicable for all young people with hearing loss, regardless of whether or not it’s actually being treated.
Ultimately, the research review found that there was evidence that strongly suggests there is a link between hearing loss in children and behavioral disorders. First and foremost, the research shows that there is evidence that children with hearing loss are internalizing their behavioral disorders in a number of ways, including emotional and social withdrawal, symptoms of depression, low self-esteem, and symptoms of anxiety.
Moreover, the researchers found that even for children with treated hearing loss, these internalized behaviors did not go away. However, the researchers did note that children with treated hearing loss exhibited fewer behaviors typical of externalized behavioral disorders, including destructive, defiant, and impulsive actions.
In addition to this correlation between hearing loss in children and behavioral disorders, the research also found that young people with hearing loss are less likely to obtain mental health services that could help them overcome their behavioral issues. Although it is unclear whether or not this lack of mental health services for children with hearing loss is due to financial, time, or other constraints, the researchers argue that these services are critical for helping children with hearing a loss to work through their behavioral issues.
While the research doesn’t suggest that every child with hearing loss will have a behavioral disorder, it does identify a link between the two conditions. Thus, moving forward, more research on how to help these young people, not only with their hearing loss but with their behavioral issues, is of the utmost importance. The research shows that understanding the impact of hearing loss on behavioral health in children is an important focal point in which families, educators, and medical professionals can concentrate on to best serve the needs of these young people.