A new study says that loss of hearing in one ear hurts children's ability to comprehend and use language.
"For many years, pediatricians and educators thought that as long as children have one normal hearing ear, their speech and language would develop normally," says lead author Judith E. C. Lieu, MD, a Washington University ear, nose and throat specialist at St. Louis Children's Hospital.
"But then a few studies began suggesting these children might have problems in school. Now our study has shown that on average, children with hearing loss in one ear have poorer oral language scores than children with hearing in both ears," Lieu says.
Hearing loss in one ear can stem from congenital abnormalities in the ear, head trauma or infections such as meningitis.
Children with hearing loss in one ear may go undetected because they can appear to have normal hearing. Their difficulty hearing may be mistaken simply for lack of attention or selective hearing, says Lieu, assistant professor of otolaryngology.
Even children with recognized one-side hearing loss often aren't fitted with hearing aids and often don't receive accommodations for disability.
The study will be published in the June issue of the journal Pediatrics.