Language Develpment and ear infections


Active Member
This is timely information, not for my children as they are past the frequent ear infection stage, but because I'm living a lesson in this right now. I had an eardrum rupture a few months ago and unlike the earlier times the ringing has persisted. Last week when I had a cold the other ear started ringing at a different frequency and lower volume than the other. Trying to sort out which sound is coming from where is utterly confusing, not to mention distinguish those sounds from the background noises. I felt like I'm getting a taste of what life must be like for kids with auditory discrimination problems.


New Member
I have coined a term, on my own, for a certain subset of the kids I see in Occupational Therapist (OT). I call them "ear infection kids". I can tell within a couple of minutes of first seeing them. They are generally normal intelligence, hyper, underresponsive to stimuli, delayed language (especially receptive), impulsive, some fine motor delays that are generally attributable to poor attention. I am generally right about 80-90 % of the time. Sometimes I get kids with these symptoms and they've never had an ear infection in their life, have beautiful ear drums, no allergies. In that case, I have no idea of the origin, but the large, large majority of these kids have an extensive history of ear infections and tubes.

I have many theories on why all of these symptoms go together, possible the underlying allergies that cause all the ear infections. Histamine affects attention and alertness.

Sound, and the ability to process it correctly affects MUCH more than just language skills. Sound is the one sense that tells you about your surroundings, 360 degrees, both near and far. No other sense gives you as much information about your world as sound. Half of your senses only tell you about YOU and not about your world and the people and things in it. Touch is only near, vision is only when and where you can see, taste is only in your mouth, our noses are relatively weak, but generally will only tell us very near information. Sound tells us whether or not Mom is mad at us by her tone of voice, that there's a thunderstorm or car coming, how big the room is, how near and where things are, and much, much more. It is very important for making us feel safe, as it gives information about our surroundings. A disruption in this causes many kids to be hypervigilant and unable to read cues from the world.

I could go on and on. I have my own "ear infection kid", my 6 year old, and it can be very frustrating for him and the rest of the family. I just wanted to share the widespread effect of the ear infections. It goes way beyond language.


New Member
I firmly believe that at least part (a large part) of my difficult child's issues stem from ear infections. He had his first before 3 months and has had 4 sets of tubes, the first at 9 months old.

His speech was delayed and he began speech therapy at 27 months. Fortunately, his receptive language skills were not affected and when his ears were clear, his comprehension was fine. His pragmatics and articulation were another issue. He had speech through grade 1 and now speaks like a perfect gentleman! LOL! His pronunciation is very precise!

I do believe that there are "ear infection kids" out there and my best friend also call them that. Her younger daughter, almost 13, is one as well. She is very hyper and has anxiety. My son is not hyper (he's actual more like a slug or a sloth physically, lol!) but has anxiety. We both think it stems from the fear of being a deaf person (which both of our kids basically were at various times) in a hearing culture and not being able to express themselves properly.

Both of these kids are extremely bright (IQs test in just below gifted area, and we have both been told they are low estimates) and both had difficulty learning to read (my son had speech so much in K and 1 he missed reading time!) and write. In my son's case, he now reads at 7th grade or above in grade 4, but my friend's daughter has more issues with reading comp than my son does.

So, yeah, ear infections are insidious. When my next son started getting them, I lined up evaluations to get him speech and once I had a start date for the therapy, I had his ears drained and tubes put in. He was 17 months. The reason I had to wait till 27 mos with difficult child was that I had him evaled AFTER the second set of tubes and his receptive lang was great. Next boy had no receptive as his ears were so clogged; hence I got services right away. He had speech till 4 1.2 and now also speaks beautifully.

My baby is turning 5 in March, never had an ear infection, but still gets speech 3 times a week for articulation difficulties of unknown origin! With him, I did not even realize that he had poor speech since he spoke so beautifully compared to his 2 older bros, meaning some people outside the immediate family could understand him. It was not until we sent him to day camp with his peers that husband and I got hit with David's speech issues. We had him evaled immediately and he began at 4 1/2.

I now make it a point to tell every parent of a young child I meet who has ear infections to please see an ENT to see if the ears are clogged and to get a speech evaluation ASAP. For awhile, docs were saying don't do tubes but honestly, in my humble opinion, it is a fairly low risk surgery with a high benefit ratio. While the child's ears are clogged, they cannot be remediated.