STATISTICAL studies undertaken in many communities of this country show rather marked variation as to the percentage of children suffering from significant handicaps in communication. However, none of those making such surveys would feel it an exaggeration if one ventured to state that the instance of handicapping impairments of hearing range somewhere between 1 and 2% in the preschool and early school age children. The number of crippling hearing problems apparently is growing. This growth paradoxically seems to be proportional to the improvement in the obstetrician's and pediatrician's ability to save children, particularly children born after severe trauma, and premature children.
The national picture of the hearing handicapped child is changing. Thirty years ago our deaf schools were filled with children whose hearing impairments were caused by sequelae of meningococcic meningitis or of other infections that involved the ears. This no longer pertains, and we are faced today with a population of children whose hearing handicaps include lesions not localized to the middle or inner ear on even to the auditory nerve. Very few of these children arc completely deaf. They suffer either distorted hearing as the result of damage to the end-organ, or, due to some central damage they are unable to understand speech because they cannot properly comprehend on synthesize speech patterns without special training. Often such youngsters suffer from multiple neurologic handicaps.
Many children have an amazing ability to learn communication both from an auditory and a speech point of view, provided that their problem is detected early and carefully evaluated, and that they are placed in a well-designed training program. After the age of 6 on 7 years, children with such injuries can rarely be trained with as good results as are obtained in the preschool group. Early detection therefore is of the utmost importance.
- Copyright © 1959 by the American Academy of Pediatrics