Language skills of bilingual children with hearing loss

© Eric Simarda
Achieving age-appropriate language skills is a challenge for many monolingual children with hearing loss, and they often require support to achieve proficiency. Bilingual children, of course, have the additional challenge of learning two languages. Some specialists have even discouraged bilingual language learning because of the belief that this may delay acquisition of the child’s first language. In contrast, some studies have shown that bilingualism has a beneficial effect on speech and language development.

The results of a research study on language development in bilingual children with hearing impairment have recently been published. The study was carried out by researchers at the University of Houston, and at the Center for Hearing and Speech in Houston, Texas (USA). Data for 20 bilingual Spanish-English speakers and 20 monolingual English speakers were analyzed in the study which aimed to assess the effects of supporting both English and Spanish on language outcomes.

Total language, auditory comprehension, and expressive communication scores were used to evaluate English proficiency. The analysis showed that there were no statistically significant differences between the English scores of monolingual children versus bilingual children with hearing loss. These findings support the hypothesis that there is no reason not to support two languages.

A comparison of the levels of proficiency in Spanish versus English among the bilingual children was also carried out. It was found that the total language scores for English and Spanish were not different, showing that similar levels of proficiency can be achieved in two languages.

Source: Bunta F, Douglas, M. The Effects of Dual-Language Support on the Language Skills of Bilingual Children With Hearing Loss Who Use Listening Devices Relative to Their Monolingual Peers. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools 2013 Jul;44(3):281-90