Tis the season for colds and the flu – Ahh-Ahh-choo! This is the time of year where we see an increase in congestion, coughs and sneezing. Unfortunately, this also means an increased risk of ear infections and fluid in the ears.
One of the first questions we ask in our case history process is “Has your child experienced ear infections or fluid in the ears and if so, how frequent?” Chronic, meaning both an ear infection that does not heal and a recurring ear infection or fluid in the ear, can be detrimental to the development of speech and language, especially for those children birth to 6 years of age who are in the height of speech-sound development. In this case, the child is not hearing sounds as clearly as they should so to get the correct models of speech sounds. I explain it to parents to imagine learning speech as if you are under water. Sounds are distorted and if chronic or go untreated, this can lead to speech delays.
Further, when a child has these infections or fluid in the ears affecting hearing acuity, they miss out on the higher frequency sounds. If left untreated, children also risk acquiring a morphological disorder ~ missing the endings of words like the plural and/or possessive /s/ (e.g., shoes/Amy’s). These children also often have a hard time with inflections in speech as they do not hear the rise in voice for questions, exclamations/excitement, etc. Also, untreated middle ear infections or fluid can pose a problem in older children who are learning higher language concepts like figurative language and sarcasm as they may not hear the change in tone of voice. Further, our middle ear is where the vestibular (balance) system is so chronic infections or fluid can result in balance and/or sensory issues.
The typical signs of ear infections are:
- Difficulty sleeping
- If an older child is able to communicate, he/she feels pressure in the ear(s)
- For infants and very young children, pulling/tugging on the (ear)
- Fluid draining from the ear(s)
- Increased fussiness
If your child has been diagnosed with an ear infection and air travel is planned, consult the child’s primary care provider regarding if it is safe to fly due to the increased cabin pressure in flight.
Since fluid in the ear(s) can also be un-infected and can simply be due to increased congestion due to allergies, etc. it is best to have your child’s hearing screened annually. This is often done in the schools through middle school or can also be done at your child’s primary care provider’s office.
Our clinic also offers free hearing screens and we also screen hearing during evaluations for children 4 years and older. Should the child not pass the hearing screen, a referral on to an audiologist is made to further evaluate hearing acuity. It is always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to hearing health.
If you would like to learn more about the SUSAN L. COHN & ASSOCIATES TEAM, you can click here.
References:· American Speech-Hearing Association (asha.org)· Firstyears.org· HealthLine.com· Parenting.com