Posted on Monday, February 13, 2012

Childhood Hearing Loss, Education, and Early Intervention

Undiagnosed Childhood Hearing Loss Impacts Education

Could your child’s poor performance in school be related to hearing loss?
Recent data indicates a thirty percent rise in hearing loss among U.S. adolescents and younger children. According to the Michigan State University's website, “Every teacher in the early elementary school can expect to have one-fourth to one-third of his or her students without normal hearing on any given day.” Unfortunately, these important facts haven't led to a rise in awareness about childhood hearing loss or its impact on school performance. The lack of information around childhood hearing loss means that many years can pass before a student is diagnosed and treated. Though early intervention is key, in some cases children reach adulthood before the hearing loss is recognized.

ADD and undiagnosed childhood hearing loss share many similar symptoms like: difficulty paying attention, inattentiveness, responding inappropriately to questions, academic problems, and poor self-image.

Why aren’t teachers and parents better informed about the symptoms of childhood hearing loss? Quite simply, it is assumed that such a condition would be easily recognized or that it would be caught by school hearing screenings. In actuality this might work with vision--a test, teacher, or parent can identify a child squinting at the blackboard or misreading a poster, but the same is not always true with the nuanced ranges of childhood hearing loss. This is especially true if a child has unilateral hearing loss. Childhood hearing loss, evidenced by misunderstanding what has been said, asking to have things repeated, or being irresponsive when called is often misunderstood as ADD or ignored as typical childhood behavior. This is truly sad since, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), “Hearing loss is common and, in young persons, can compromise social development, communication skills, and educational achievement.”

Students with undiagnosed childhood hearing loss have lower self esteem, have more problems in school, and tend to isolate themselves.

Lauren Lundin, who suffered with hearing loss for many years before being diagnosed, describes a typical parent reaction to hearing loss symptoms in her article on about.com. She said, “My loving parents, who naturally talked loud, thought my sometimes ignoring them was normal child/adolescent behavior.” Parents who are unfamiliar with the signs of childhood hearing loss often overlook them. Considering that even a small change in hearing can result in huge decreases in performance in school leading to self-esteem, social and emotional problems this lack of knowledge can have far-reaching consequences.

There are solutions and technology readily available to diagnose and deal with childhood hearing loss.

Sophisticated tests needed to properly check for childhood hearing loss can be easily performed by a board certified audiologists, and often the solution can be found in supplying the student with a hearing aid. According to MSU, “numerous studies have shown improvement in attention, understanding directions, classroom participation and school behavior” when fitted with hearing aids. In the past, people hesitated to get a hearing aid because they assumed they were big and bulky, but today’s hearing aids are so small as to be unnoticeable and can provide children the auditory boost they need to accommodate childhood hearing loss and help them pay attention.

There is a desperate need to spread the word to parents, grandparents, and educators about childhood hearing loss.

As the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association points out, “Undiagnosed or misdiagnosed hearing loss can result in problems as the child may know something is not quite right but is not getting the proper professional attention.” It might not be just the child who is confused. Most parents aren't familiar with the common signs of childhood hearing loss. It’s unfortunate that this confusion persists when the fundamentals of good eye care and the necessity of yearly optometrist visits are well established; comparatively, few parents ever take their child to an audiologist.


Author unknown (n.d.) EFFECTS OF MINIMAL HEARING LOSS ON STUDENT PERFORMANCE IN THE CLASSROOM taken on Oct 6, 2011 retrieved from: https://www.msu.edu/~huffma23/

Shargorodsky Josef, MD, MPH; Curhan G. Sharon, MD, ScM; Curhan C. Gary, MD, ScD; Eavey Roland, MD, SM 2010;304(7):772-778. doi: 10.1001/jama.2010.1124 taken on Oct 6, 2011 retrieved from: http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/304/7/772.full

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (2011), Childhood Hearing Loss, taken on Oct 6, 2011 retrieved from: http://www.asha.org/uploadedFiles/AIS-Hearing-Loss-Childhood.pdf

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