We tend to associate hearing loss with older adults, but children can also suffer from hearing conditions. Statistics show that as many as six out of every 1,000 babies are born with hearing loss, and about 18 percent of Americans with severe hearing loss are under the age of 18.

It’s important for children to receive hearing evaluations from an audiologist at an early age, not only because it can improve their hearing, but because it affects so many areas of their development. Here are four ways an audiologist’s diagnosis and treatment of a child’s hearing loss can directly benefit their wellbeing.

1. Early speech development

Children who cannot hear well will not speak as soon or be capable of repeating speech sounds correctly. If your child is having difficulty speaking clearly or struggles with early phonics, a hearing exam can help determine if it’s caused by a hearing problem or another condition. In addition to learning how to speak, children who suffer from hearing loss have a harder time learning how speech works. Things like grammar, word order and vocabulary become more challenging, affecting every aspect of learning.

An audiologist can help your child by complementing the training services of a speech and language pathologist with listening strategies. They may also recommend hearing aids, cochlear implants or other assistive devices that can help your child with this important step in development.

2. Getting the most out of a classroom environment

It’s important to make sure your child has a hearing exam prior to entering school. If a child has inadequate hearing abilities, the classroom is a very difficult environment for learning. Classrooms tend to be noisy and may not have good acoustic features; your child may also be placed toward the back of the room where it’s difficult to hear what the teacher’s saying.

Hearing aids, assistive listening devices and strategic seating per an audiologist’s direction can make a huge difference in a child’s ability to listen and learn in the classroom setting.

3. Assistance with behavioral problems

Children may show behavioral problems that resemble those with ADD or ADHD if their hearing keeps them from fully engaging with what’s going on the classroom or processing verbal instructions. Before seeking help from medication, take your child to an audiologist. Diagnosing and treating hearing loss may help your child finally listen, focus and learn in the classroom.

4. Social development

Children who can’t listen and speak clearly and can’t keep up with the rest of their class because of an untreated hearing problem may also struggle socially. Even in a fully accepting environment, children who know their shortcomings may be embarrassed to participate in social activities at school, hindering their ability to develop a healthy self-image and social life.

An audiologist can help

Healthy hearing is vital to early speech development, classroom learning and even social development. Make sure your child’s hearing isn’t a hindrance to these important aspects of their early development by scheduling regular checkups with an audiologist.