Predicting Quality of Life and Behavior and Emotion from Functional Auditory and Pragmatic Language Abilities in 9-Year-Old Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Children

J Clin Med. 2021 Nov 17;10(22):5357. doi: 10.3390/jcm10225357.


Children who are deaf or hard of hearing (DHH) are likely to exhibit difficulties in development of psychosocial skills, pragmatic language skills, and use of hearing for social communication in real-world environments. Some evidence suggests that pragmatic language use affects peer-relationships and school engagement in these children. However, no studies have investigated the influence of functional auditory performance and use of language and speech in real-world environments on children's behavior and emotion, and on their health-related quality of life. This study explored the relationship in DHH children at 9 years of age. Data from 144 participants of the Longitudinal Outcomes of Children with Hearing Impairment study were analyzed. Parent reports were obtained on quality of life, behavior and emotion, pragmatic language skills, and auditory functional performance of children in real life. Children's spoken language abilities and speech intelligibility were assessed by research speech pathologists. On average, performance of children in all domains was within the range of typically developing peers. There were significant associations among functional auditory performance, use of speech and language skills, psychosocial skills, and quality of life. Multiple linear regression analyses revealed that better auditory functional performance and pragmatic language skills, rather than structural language abilities, were associated with better psychosocial abilities and quality of life. The novel findings highlight the importance of targeted intervention for improving functional hearing skills and social communication abilities in DHH children, and emphasize the importance of collaborative approaches among medical, audiology, allied health, and educational professionals to identify those at risk so that timely referral and intervention can be implemented for improving psychosocial health and well-being in DHH children.

Keywords: auditory functional performance; behavior and emotion; cochlear implants; deaf and hard of hearing children; hearing aids; pragmatic language skills; quality of life; speech intelligibility.