Warning Signs for Speech, Language, and Hearing Disorders

Did you know that 11% of children ages 3–6 have a speech, language, voice, or swallowing disorder and almost 15% of school-age children experience some degree of hearing loss?

Communication disorders are among the most common disabilities in children nationwide. May is Better Hearing & Speech Month – a perfect time to help families learn the early signs of these disorders and seek an assessment if they have concerns.

Communication disorders are treatable – in some cases, they can be reversed or even prevented – but parents often delay having their child evaluated. Timely intervention is important, as untreated speech/language and hearing disorders can lead to problems with reading and writing, academic success, social interactions, behavioral problems, and more. If you have concerns, don’t wait to see if there is a change. Trust your instincts, and get it checked out.

Hearing loss is evaluated and treated by audiologists; speech and language disorders are evaluated and treated by speech-language pathologists. Warning signs of these disorders are listed below.

Language Disorders

  • Does not smile or interact with others (birth and older)
  • Does not babble (4–7 months)
  • Makes only a few sounds or gestures, like pointing (7–12 months)
  • Does not understand what others say (7 months–2 years)
  • Says only a few words (12–18 months)
  • Words are not easily understood (18 months–2 years)
  • Does not put words together to make sentences (1.5–3 years)
  • Has trouble playing and talking with other children (2–3 years)
  • Has trouble with early reading and writing skills (2½–3 years)

Speech Sound Disorders

  • Says p, b, m, h, and w incorrectly in words (1–2 years)
  • Says k, g, f, t, d, and n incorrectly in words (2–3 years)
  • Produces speech that is unclear, even to familiar people (2–3 years)


  • Repeats first sounds of words—“b-b-b-ball” for “ball”
  • Speech breaks while trying to say a word—“—–boy” for “boy”
  • Stretches sounds out—“ffffff-farm” for “farm”
  • Shows frustration when trying to get words out

Voice Disorders

  • Uses a hoarse or breathy voice
  • Uses a nasal-sounding voice

Hearing Loss

  • Shows a lack of attention to sounds (birth–1 year)
  • Does not respond when you call their name (7 months–1 year)
  • Does not follow simple directions (1–2 years)
  • Shows delays in speech and language development (birth–3 years)
  • Pulls or scratches at their ears
  • Has difficulty achieving academically, especially in reading and math
  • Is socially isolated and unhappy at school
  • Has persistent ear discomfort after exposure to loud noise (regular and constant listening to electronics at high volumes)

Families can learn more about these signs and get tips for helping their child at IdentifytheSigns.org. If you have concerns about your child’s speech and language milestones and would like to talk with a speech therapist, contact Kid’s Creek Therapy for a free consultation.

Melanie McGriff, M.Ed., clinic director/owner and speech-language pathologist

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