Speech delay caused by hearing impairment?

We recently visited a cousin and I noticed that her daughter, who is almost three could speak only a few words. She pointed at what she wanted, moaned a lot and was very hyper. She also screaming quite a bit as she played by herself. I have a nephew who is hearing-impaired and thought that something might be wrong. When I asked my cousin if her daughter could hear, she just brushed it off. Should I call her again or am I just rushing into a judgment?


I do indeed feel that the behavior of your cousin's daughter is a cause for concern. When a child can say only three words at the age of nearly three, then it is time to identify what is going on. Three-year-olds can usually speak in sentences, or at least phrases.

Her methods of compensation, such as using non-verbal means to communicate to her mother, are also signs of warning. At this age, she should be able to make most of her needs known by using words. Also, the loud sounds are indications that she cannot hear her own voice very well.

Often, when a child speaks so little at this age, a teacher will consider the possibility of a lag in language development. An evaluation is recommended to determine if tutoring is necessary. But the first thing a good teacher requests is a hearing test: It is important to always rule out physical problems first. In your cousin's case, I would say that a physical exam of her daughter's hearing is a compulsory first step.

Your problem seems to lie in convincing the mother that this is the best thing for her child. I know it is difficult for you to make the phone call, given the mother's first brush-off. But this is certainly the best thing you can do for the child.

It might help if you tell your cousin about your hearing-impaired nephew, if she doesn't already know the story. You can also tell her that the sooner any problem is found, the easier it will be to help her own daughter. If she is diagnosed now, she may be able to attend a regular school when she is three or four. Otherwise, it might be very difficult for her to get along. The sooner the problem is uncovered - whatever it is - the better.

You can explain to her that there are possibilities other than a permanent hearing loss. I had a three-year-old student once who was always pushing other children. One day, I called his name when his back was turned. Even though he was close to me, he didn't turn around. I tried this a few more times, and then I called his parents in, told them the situation, and requested a hearing test. The parents of this boy took him to a doctor, who discovered a benign tumor in one ear which completely blocked his hearing. He had an operation, and returned to the classroom a week later, transformed. For the rest of his time in our school, he was a very happy and friendly child. It was simply amazing.

I think you should make this phone call. You may save a life.

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