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Can Hearing Loss Cause Speech Problems in Adults?

By WebMD Connect to Care Staff
Hearing loss in children can lead to speech production problems, but adults often have a distinct set of issues regarding speech and hearing loss.

Hearing loss can affect speech in adults, but not in the way you might think. Adult hearing loss primarily affects speech perception rather than speech production. This means that adult hearing loss not just a sensory problemthere are also communication issues that are important to address. 

Adult Hearing Loss and Speech

Adult hearing loss often affects the ability to understand what others are saying. “As you would expect, adult hearing loss is significantly associated with decreased speech comprehension,” Hamid Djalilian, director of otology and neurotology at the University of California, Irvine, tells WebMD Connect to Care. 

This difficulty understanding what people are saying also involves other communication problems, such as understanding the emotions behind what is being said. “Recent studies have confirmed that older individuals with hearing loss exhibit significant difficulty in recognizing emotions in speech,” Djalilian says.

According to a 2019 article published in The Hearing Review, hearing loss can result in “feelings of frustration, embarrassment, and distress” for adults with hearing loss and their partners. This puts adults with hearing loss at a higher risk for loneliness and social isolation. 

“There begins to be a negative spiral with adult hearing loss,” Djalilian says. “The hearing loss causes decreased speech perception, which then strains relationships. And this strain leads to social isolation, loneliness, and depressionall conditions that are notably increased in adults with hearing loss.”

If you’re struggling with hearing loss, hearing aids may be able to help. The right hearing aid could significantly improve your hearing abilities and prevent some of the communication and perceptual difficulties associated with hearing loss.

Hearing aids amplify sound, which may allow you to “listen, communicate, and participate more fully in daily activities,” according to the National Institutes of Health. And for those with severe hearing loss who cannot benefit from hearing aids, “a cochlear implant may be the solution,” Djalilian says.

Hearing Loss Can Be Managed and Treated.

The earlier you address the symptoms of hearing loss, the more likely you are to avoid irreversible damage. Get the answers you need to start treatment today.