As students head back to school with renewed energy for the new year, it's important that parents and teachers to learn to recognize when a child's problems with learning are really the result of hearing loss. Childhood hearing loss isn’t always easy to recognize, but there are ways parents and teachers can determine if a child has hearing loss.
Parents of school aged children and younger often wonder what constitutes normal behavior and what serves as a sign a child may be having a problem with their hearing. Hearing loss can occur at any age and is the most common birth defect in the United States. Though there are now systems in place to recognize children born with hearing loss, but school age children who develop hearing loss can go undiagnosed.
Childhood hearing loss is sometimes misdiagnosed as ADD, or even dismissed because the hearing loss occurs unilaterally, only in one ear.
Speech Problems: If a child says words incorrectly, has delays in language and communication, feels more comfortable with gestures, these could be signs that your child is not hearing everything said or not processing sound in the correct way. Note: A lisp is not typically associated with hearing loss and is a relatively common speech disorder.
Inattentive: Parents of young children often complain that they don’t answer when called, so how can you tell the difference between “selective” hearing or a genuine hearing problem? The key is in consistency. If a child hears and responds to you a majority of the time, then they may have “tuned” you out on the one occasion they did not respond. But if in addition to repeatedly not answering your calls or responding to things you have said, the child often looks confused when asked a question, seems slow to answer, answers incorrectly or then asks to have things repeated, you could be seeing the first signs of a problem. Asking “What?” more than is typical or if a child needs to be looking directly at you in order to hear--this might indicate they are reading lips, may also be signs of hearing loss.
Hires Volume: If your child hires the volume on the television, radio, or computer too high, this could be a sound of hearing loss. Also a child that speaks in a higher volume than most children is also a sign of hearing loss. Children with unilateral hearing loss are often accused of being loud. This is important, because hearing loss in one ear can be harder to spot as the hearing ear sometimes masks, though it does not compensate for, childhood hearing loss. Studies show unilateral hearing loss can cause the same delays and cognitive problems as hearing loss in both ears.
Not Following Directions: If a child seems confused by directions, brings the wrong item, responds in a way that makes no sense, or consistently asks for things to be repeated he or she could have childhood hearing loss. Children with hearing loss often confuse what is being told to them. That means they have difficulty with language. They can also have issues with speech—how they express themselves. For a clearer understanding on the difference between speech and language, this is how it is described by kidshealth.org:
• Speech is the verbal expression of language and includes articulation, which is the way sounds and words are formed.
• Language is much broader and refers to the entire system of expressing and receiving information in a way that's meaningful. It's understanding and being understood through communication — verbal, nonverbal, and written
Learning Difficulties: Is your child having learning problems in school? Has the teacher complained that he or she is not paying attention? Does the teacher mention the child appears to not listen, ignores directions, or seems unable to keep up with the conversation? According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, “Children who are hard of hearing will find it much more difficult than children who have normal hearing to learn vocabulary, grammar, word order, idiomatic expressions, and other aspects of verbal communication.”
Social Withdrawal: Often times children with hearing loss avoid social situations, sports, parties and family events. These get-togethers can cause a feeling of being overwhelmed by his or her inability to communicate and understand. Sadly if a child has hearing loss and is asked why they avoid these situations, they might not know. To them their hearing loss is normal, so the child remains unaware that they are not hearing at the same level as everyone else.
In addition to these signs, parents must also learn not to ignore their instinct when it comes to childhood hearing loss, especially if the alarm continues to sound despite recent school testing of your child. School is not the place to have your child’s hearing tested and neither is your pediatrician’s office. Pediatricians cannot provide the same level of testing and are not aware of the same hearing issues as a certified audiologist. An audiologist has sophisticated equipment and specialized education needed to correctly identify the many different ranges of childhood 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!