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Pediatrics. 2010 Jun;125(6):e1348-55. doi: 10.1542/peds.2009-2448. Epub 2010 May 10.

Unilateral hearing loss is associated with worse speech-language scores in children.

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Department of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, MO 63110, USA.



To determine whether children with unilateral hearing loss (UHL) demonstrate worse language skills than their siblings with normal hearing, and whether children with UHL are more likely to receive extra assistance at school.


We conducted a case-control study of 6- to 12-year-old children with UHL compared with sibling controls (74 pairs, n = 148). Scores on the oral portion of the Oral and Written Language Scales (OWLS) were the primary outcome measure. Multivariable analysis was used to determine whether UHL independently predicted OWLS scores after we controlled for potential confounding variables.


Children with UHL had worse scores than their siblings on language comprehension (91 vs 98; P = .003), oral expression (94 vs 101; P = .007), and oral composite (90 vs 99; P < .001). UHL independently predicted these OWLS scores when multivariable regression was used with moderate effect sizes of 0.3 to 0.7. Family income and maternal education were also independent predictors of oral expression and oral composite scores. No differences were found between children with right- or left-ear UHL or with varying severity of hearing loss. Children with UHL were more likely to have an individualized education plan (odds ratio: 4.4 [95% confidence interval: 2.0-9.5]) and to have received speech-language therapy (odds ratio: 2.6 [95% confidence interval: 1.3-5.4]).


School-aged children with UHL demonstrated worse oral language scores than did their siblings with normal hearing. These findings suggest that the common practice of withholding hearing-related accommodations from children with UHL should be reconsidered and studied, and that parents and educators should be informed about the deleterious effects of UHL on oral language skills.

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