Children who are not progressing with their development at normal rates should be seen by a doctor. Problems are usually first discovered by a primary care doctor, but your child may be referred to a specialist for more advanced levels of treatment. Children are far more likely than adults to experience problems with their ears, noses, and throats, so a trip to an ENT doctor is a relatively common occurrence. The most common problems include tonsillitis, adenoiditis, and ear infections.


Most parents will make the decision to visit an ENT specialist when the child starts experiencing regular symptoms such as a fever, sore throat, ear pain, or inflammation. All of these problems could indicate a potentially more serious problem. Parents should also consider visiting an ear, nose, and throat doctor if the child experiences delays with his or her speech development. An ENT doctor may be able to offer other ways to help treat the problem.

Reviewing Potential Development Problems

You should tell your doctor if you feel like your child is not progressing at a proper rate in terms of his or her speech and language development. This is something that should be addressed as a part of every routine check-up. Not all children develop at an equal pace, so some delays may not really be a problem at all. Some children may just be advancing at a slower pace than others, while other children may have development issues that stem from a more serious underlying physical problem. The only way to know for sure is to have the problem examined by a doctor.

A primary care doctor will be able to do basic hearing, vision, and physical examinations, but they will need to refer you to a specialist for more advanced testing and treatment. An ear, nose, and throat doctor will help detect any hearing or speech abnormalities that could be inhibiting normal development.

Signs Indicating Speech and Language Development Problems

If your child is not beginning to respond to sounds or start making sounds of his or her own by 18 months, this raises a red flag in terms of your child’s development. A lack of responding to sounds in younger children is a significant sign of hearing problems. Children should be able to develop basic speech skills around the age of two, though most words may not be comprehensible. At around the age of four, the child should be able to generally communicate without any major problems in understanding the child’s speech. Any significant delays from this time frame should be at least reviewed by a doctor.

What Leads to Delayed Speech Development

There are many different types of causes that can affect your child’s speech and language development. Problems with a child learning to speak may actually be caused by an underlying hearing problem. Simple problems like an undiagnosed ear infection or build-up of fluid in the ear could be inhibiting your child’s hearing and make it difficult to develop a normal understanding of speech. Other children could have a physical abnormality of the mouth or ears that makes normal speech or hearing impossible.

An ear, nose, and throat doctor can easily identify many common problems. Some cases, like ear infections, are an easy fix. Others may require ongoing treatment with a speech therapist or speech pathologist. In either case, an ENT doctor is instrumental in helping to diagnose the problem.

Dr. Michael Barakate is a paediatric and adult otolaryngologist located in Sydney, Australia.  For more information on ENT surgery and ENT disorders, visit