Early hearing loss and language abilities in children with Down syndrome

Glynis Laws, Amanda Hall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Although many children with Down syndrome experience hearing loss, there has been little research to investigate its impact on speech and language development. Studies that have investigated the association give inconsistent results. These have often been based on samples where children with the most severe hearing impairments have been excluded and so results do not generalize to the wider population with Down syndrome. Also, measuring children's hearing at the time of a language assessment does not take into account the fluctuating nature of hearing loss in children with Down syndrome or possible effects of losses in their early years.

AIMS: To investigate the impact of early hearing loss on language outcomes for children with Down syndrome.

METHODS & PROCEDURES: Retrospective audiology clinic records and parent report for 41 children were used to categorize them as either having had hearing difficulties from 2 to 4 years or more normal hearing. Differences between the groups on measures of language expression and comprehension, receptive vocabulary, a narrative task and speech accuracy were investigated.

OUTCOMES & RESULTS: After accounting for the contributions of chronological age and nonverbal mental age to children's scores, there were significant differences between the groups on all measures.

CONCLUSIONS & IMPLICATIONS: Early hearing loss has a significant impact on the speech and language development of children with Down syndrome. Results suggest that speech and language therapy should be provided when children are found to have ongoing hearing difficulties and that joint audiology and speech and language therapy clinics could be considered for preschool children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)333-342
Number of pages10
JournalInternational journal of language & communication disorders
Issue number3
Early online date21 Apr 2014
Publication statusPublished - 29 Apr 2014


  • articulation disorders
  • comorbidity
  • comprehension
  • Down syndrome
  • hearing loss
  • language development disorders
  • reading
  • retrospective studies
  • speechdisorders
  • speech production measurement
  • verbal behavior
  • vocabulary


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