Posted on Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Childhood Hearing Loss, Hyperactivity, and Education

Boy with dog. Could his hearing loss cause hyperactivity?

Recent studies have linked hearing loss to conditions not typically associated with hearing loss. For example, the likelihood of dementia and Alzheimer’s were found to increase in those that have hearing loss. Now, researchers have uncovered another link between hearing and molecular changes in the brain. It has been found that children with hearing loss may exhibit signs of hyperactivity due to an imbalance of proteins within the inner ear.

Children who have hearing loss and hyperactivity are now thought to display these tendencies due to increased levels of proteins found within the inner ear. This conclusion followed an observation by Michelle W. Antoine, a Ph.D. student at Einstein, who noticed certain mice in her lab had a tendency to be hyperactive. She quickly realized these mice had severe hearing issues. Further study of these mice led to the discovery that these mice had a gene mutation within the inner ear that created an imbalance of proteins essential for brain plasticity and neurotransmitter signaling.

This study offers a solution for children with hyperactivity and hearing loss and their parents. As researchers successfully diminished this hyperactivity in mice by selectively reducing these imbalanced proteins. In the below video a researcher of this study explains.

For children with hearing loss who have difficulties with school and education, other studies have shown that they do better when supported by in-class acoustics. According to Phonak Dynamic Soundfield produces improvement in the following areas:

  • Improved sentence recognition ability
  • Increased attention, interaction and participation
  • Quicker acquisition of reading, writing and numeracy skills
  • Easier deciphering of language in early learning years
  • Better understanding of teacher for non-native speakers
  • Expanded seating options for students with attention deficit issues
  • This study on children with hearing loss and hyperactivity may lead researchers to new areas of exploration. As Dr. Hebert was quoted as saying in his article on Science Daily, “Our study raises the intriguing possibility that other sensory impairments not associated with inner-ear defects could cause or contribute to psychiatric or motor disorders that are now considered exclusively of cerebral origin.”

    It's important to note that though this study links hearing loss with cognitive behavioral issues, this does not indicate that children with hearing loss are at a disadvantage with learning. Sadly, there are many stereotypes about children with hearing loss as Janice Schacter points our in her article, Misconceptions about Childhood Hearing Loss:

    "People with hearing loss have the same range of intelligence as the general population. People with untreated or inadequately treated hearing loss or in noisy locations may respond inappropriately because they have not heard what was said. They do not require slower classes just because they have a hearing loss. Often the expectations for a child with hearing loss are too low. Children with hearing loss succeed, and may not require special education, when teachers and others provide appropriate and effective accommodations. Teachers should be supportive, and schools need to be sensitive to any stereotypes by students or teachers. Name-calling is bullying and should be handled accordingly."

    Children with hearing loss, have the challenge of trying to communicate and navigate through a hearing world, but studies like this can bring parents and educators into greater understanding of the differing physiological needs of children with hearing loss.

    If you suspect your child has hearing loss, please contact your hearing health provider. If you need help finding a provider in your area click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health providers in the nation.

    Other Articles of Interest

    Central Auditory Processing Disorder Tests and Treatment

    Albert Einstein College of Medicine. "Inner-ear disorders may cause hyperactivity." ScienceDaily, 5 Sep. 2013. Web. 23 Sep. 2013.

    M. W. Antoine, C. A. Hubner, J. C. Arezzo, J. M. Hebert. A Causative Link Between Inner Ear Defects and Long-Term Striatal Dysfunction. Science, 2013; 341 (6150): 1120 DOI: 10.1126/science.1240405

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