Hearing loss among persons with down syndrome

Heather Porter, Anne Marie Tharpe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Communicative interactions provide the foundation for cognitive and social development early in life and continue to impact our behaviors, social patterns, and thoughts throughout our lives. Expressive and receptive exchanges are essential to communication, and hearing is an essential part of all spoken communicative attempts. For individuals who use spoken communication, maximizing auditory ability is imperative. This is especially true for those with Down syndrome as they are susceptible to expressive and receptive communicative difficulties and vulnerable to auditory disorders. Hearing loss can interfere with a child's ability to develop spoken language and influence subsequent academic and psychosocial development. Even children with mild hearing loss can experience greater academic difficulty than their peers with normal hearing. The early effects of hearing loss on academic and social development can remain throughout adulthood. Though individuals with Down syndrome are prone to hearing loss, the effects can be lessened with accurate and early identification when accompanied by appropriate ongoing medical and audiologic management. It is important for all those involved in the lives of children and adults with Down syndrome to recognize the auditory barriers that are likely to exist and to remain diligent in their efforts to seek ongoing otologic and audiologic care. This review discusses typical development of the human auditory system and what is known about the structure and function of the auditory systems of individuals with Down syndrome. In addition, we describe behavioral and physiologic assessments of auditory sensitivity and conclude with a discussion of hearing technology options for individuals with Down syndrome and hearing loss.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-220
Number of pages26
JournalInternational Review of Research in Mental Retardation
Issue numberC
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Down syndrome
  • Hearing assessment
  • Hearing interventions
  • Hearing loss

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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