While hearing loss holds far-reaching effects for people of all ages, these effects are perhaps most serious and apparent in children. Children with hearing loss must learn to navigate the world in a different way than their peers with normal hearing. Whether their hearing impairment is mild, moderate, or severe, it is likely to affect their educational performance, their social lives, their self-confidence, their relationships, and their future career success.
A new study has found that hearing loss can also lead to other serious consequences for children. This recently released study found that pre-teen children with hearing loss were more likely to engage in delinquency.
The study, published in 2019, was conducted by researchers in New Zealand and thus focused on Pacific children. The study particularly considered the delinquent activity of 11-year-olds. Furthermore, the researchers controlled for a variety of factors based on earlier findings, including sex, ethnicity, self-perception, peer pressure, and physical punishment (slapping) when assessing the association between hearing difficulties and behavioral outcomes.
In the study, the Pacific pre-teens were evaluating for hearing ability in a school setting. They were also asked to complete questionnaires regarding delinquent behavior, self-perception, and peer pressure. Additionally, in the home setting, researchers gathered maternal reports regarding the children’s internalizing and externalizing problem behaviors, as well as parenting styles and sociodemographic information.
Researchers discovered that hearing loss had a significant effect on children’s behavior. The study concluded that “relatively young children with hearing loss reported engagement in moderate levels of delinquency that represent serious antisocial and potentially violent acts. This finding provides evidence of the significant effect that hearing loss has on child behaviour. This association between hearing loss and moderate delinquency requires ethnic-specific interventions that are targeted for maximum benefit at appropriate times in childhood to mitigate potentially long-term health, educational, and behavioural risks.”
Interestingly, the study found that children with middle ear disease (otitis media) were significantly less likely than all other participants to participate in disruptive externalizing behavior. The study did not offer an explanation for this finding; further research must be conducted to explore this difference.
The results of this study indicate that the effects of hearing loss in children go far beyond hearing ability, and even beyond language development and educational struggles. These findings point to other frustrating issues that children with hearing loss—and their families—must deal with. Such struggles may include social problems, depression, anxiety, and more. Previous research has found that children with hearing loss report more symptoms of depression than their peers with normal hearing. Studies have also demonstrated that children with hearing loss tend to perform more poorly in school than their peers. In addition, these children are more likely to feel excluded from social activities, experience feelings of loneliness and friendlessness, and be unhappy in school.
To combat these issues, the families of children with hearing loss need to recognize the challenges their children will experience during childhood and throughout life. By addressing these issues early and frequently, these children will have a greater opportunity to succeed in school, in their careers, and in life.
For more information about the connection between hearing loss and delinquency in children, or to learn more about treatment for hearing loss in children, we invite you to contact our hearing practice today.