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Children with reading difficulties 'may have unidentified hearing problems'

25/10/2017 Joanna

Young children who are having trouble learning how to read at school may simply be suffering from hearing problems, according to new research.

Carried out by Coventry University and the Nuffield Foundation, the study analysed 195 children aged between eight and ten, with a series of tests used to establish their reading and writing skills and how they used the structures of words, based on their sounds and meanings, in speech and literacy.

It was shown that around one-third of the children who had repeated ear infections had problems with reading and writing, while nine out of the 36 children diagnosed with dyslexia were also found to have some form of hearing loss, a fact that teachers and parents were unaware of.

Children with a history of repeated ear infections mainly had problems with phonology tasks, suggesting they struggled with the perception of spoken language. As such, if teachers were to be made aware of these issues, they can better understand how the consequences of these infections may affect children's ability to learn about the sound structure of words as they begin to read.

Report author Dr Helen Breadmore said: "A mild-moderate hearing loss will make the perception of speech sounds difficult, particularly in a classroom environment with background noise and other distractions.

"Therefore, children who have suffered repeated ear infections and associated hearing problems have fluctuating access to different speech sounds precisely at the age when this information is crucial in the early stages of learning to read."

As such, the researcher called for current hearing screening procedures to be modified to ensure that children have their hearing tested in more detail and more often, thereby making it more likely that problems of this kind are identified.

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