Posted on Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Childhood Hearing Affects Brain Development

Family poses together after

Maintaining good hearing in childhood helps support developmental processes in the brain. A new study shows temporary hearing fluctuations during a child’s critical development periods may permanently affect the brain’s ability to interpret sound even after hearing returns to common levels.

Researchers at Massachusetts Eye and Ear/Harvard Medical School's Eaton-Peabody Laboratories of Auditory Physiology found that hearing changes experienced during key childhood milestones impacted how the sound from both ears was integrated and understood by the brain.

This experience dubbed “lazy ear” because it matches aurally what happens visually with lazy eye, occurs because this disruption in hearing hinders how the brain learns to recognize and organize sound from both ears.

Millions of children will experience potentially disrupting hearing problems. As an article on Science Daily reported, "According to pediatric audiology studies and the latest U.S. census data, approximately 12% of children (or 2.6 million children in the United States alone) will experience at least one bout of otitis media severe enough to cause a brief, mild conductive hearing loss before reaching five years of age.”

This statistic is a reflection on the importance of good hearing health even amongst the very young. Regular checkups to care for changes in childhood hearing—whether from excessive earwax or otitis media—establishes good hearing health and may help to coordinate brain and auditory functions. As the video below shows, even very young children can have their hearing tested.

If you'd like to learn more about the hearing testing, see your hearing health provider. If you need help finding a hearing health provider click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health professionals in the nation!

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. "Researchers gain insight into 'lazy ear'." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130930113845.htm (accessed April 3, 2014).

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