Conductive Hearing Loss Effects on Children's Language and Scholastic Skills: A Review of the Literature

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A review of available studies investigating the consequences of conductive hearing loss for language acquisition and scholastic performance was carried out. It uncovered no study that met the standards of rigor needed to provide a definitive answer to this question, although the burden of the evidence is that a persistent mild hearing loss, especially if present since infancy, probably has a measurably deleterious effect on the language of most but not all children. Diagnostic criteria documenting the severity, age of occurrence and duration of middle ear effusions were lacking. Measures of the detrimental effects of conductive losses on linguistic skills frequently were limited to the number of grades children were retained in school, their reading or vocabulary level on achievement tests, or a comparison of their scores on the verbal and performance scales of intelligence tests. Very few studies followed the acquisition of language in affected children or examined its structure. Very few considered the interaction between the socioeconomic and cultural environment of the child and the consequences of his hearing loss. The review underscored the need for prospective multidisciplinary studies in order to evaluate the actual impact of this common pediatric problem.

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