Posted on Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Do School Hearing Tests Work?

Adolescent with hearing loss in graduation gown

Each year 24,000 newborns are diagnosed with hearing loss, but this is only a portion of the children who develop hearing loss after school begins. Childhood hearing loss, especially noise induced hearing loss, continues to rise among children and adolescents, and now a new study casts doubt on whether or not these children are being properly diagnosed and treated.

The symptoms of childhood and adolescent hearing loss mimic normal childhood behaviors—like trouble paying attention or not responding when called upon. That's why it's crucial to be able to depend on testing to determine how well children hear. Although most parents take children to an eye doctor regularly, few take them to see an experienced audiologist. That's because parents assume that the hearing test their children are receiving in school are adequate to diagnose any problems. This casual acceptance of school hearing tests is becoming an increasing problem as hearing loss among adolescents and children continues to increase. According to a recent study reported on by Science Daily, "School hearing tests cannot effectively detect adolescent high-frequency hearing loss, which is typically caused by loud noise exposure."

The study conducted by researchers at Penn State College of Medicine showed that school screenings do not include high frequency sounds, which are the signals most likely impacted by noise induced hearing loss. This is especially true of children as they age. According to the article on Science Daily, one in five adolescents have high frequency hearing loss and, "Even with the effort and care put in by school nurses across the state, the current Pennsylvania school screen just isn't designed to detect high-frequency hearing loss in adolescents."

The importance of proper testing for hearing loss has been known for some time, but any change in school testing policy has been slow in coming. The truth is there are subtle variations of hearing loss that can only be detected by specialized equipment most often found in the office of an audiologist. A Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.) or what most people call an Audiologist is educated and trained to prevent, identify, and assess hearing disorders, as well as to provide treatment—including hearing aids and other assistive listening devices. An audiologist is typically trained in Speech-Language Pathology & Audiology/Communication Sciences and Disorders before they even begin the four year program necessary to become an audiologist. To put it simply, an audiologist is a hearing doctor.

The sooner hearing loss is detected the sooner awareness and treatment can begin. Children and adolescents with undiagnosed hearing loss often feel worse about themselves as they are unaware of the reasons they may be having more difficulty in class than their peers without hearing loss. If you'd like to learn more, see your hearing health provider. If you need help finding a hearing health provider click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health professionals in the nation!

Penn State. "School hearing tests do not detect noise exposure hearing loss." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 March 2014. .

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