The Importance of Hearing Tests for Children

TORONTO, April 20 /CNW/ - The importance of hearing testing isn't widely understood by many parents. Parents may schedule appointments with an opthamologist for an eye exam for their children at regular intervals - but never think to similarly schedule a hearing test with an audiologist. We think perhaps that if a child responds to our voice in a room of our homes that their hearing must be fine. Jokingly we think that if they don't respond to the calls for dinner that they should have their hearing checked - but rarely follow up on this. At one time hearing tests were conducted routinely in Canadian schools but this is no longer the case.

Increasingly studies are determining that a contributing factor in many behaviour and academic related problems is hearing loss. Often undiagnosed hearing losses lead to misdiagnosis of learning disabilities or behavioural issues (such as ADHD). When at school does your child become tired and restless, daydream, or depend on visual clues in noisy environments? These may be signals that your child has a mild to moderate hearing loss.

While a child may function normally at home it is important to understand that background noise has a greater impact on the understanding of someone with some degree of a hearing loss. The classroom is one of the most difficult listening environments due to room acoustics and background noise. Similar to your eyes becoming tired if you have a minor vision loss, similar fatigue occurs with hearing loss. In a classroom environment filled with background noise a student may find it difficult to remain focused throughout the day, and may quickly lose attention. Children with undiagnosed and unaided hearing loss have also been found to represent a disproportionate share of behavioural problems in classrooms.

Hearing or hearing loss is often generalized as a black or white ability where a child is either deaf or not. While only about 1 in 1000 children are born profoundly deaf, and another 5 in 1000 with a significant hearing loss the issue is much more widespread than this. Recent studies throughout industrialized countries have shown that approximately 12% of school aged children have some degree of hearing loss which may impact their academic performance. Other causes of hearing loss can be attributed to the significant growth in noise induced hearing loss (portable audio players) or medical conditions such as ear infections, chicken pox, meningitis and others. and many unknown causes.

The American Association of Pediatrics recommends that hearing be tested several times in school aged children similar to the frequency that children may have their vision tested.

    -   When they enter school
    -   Ages 6, 8, 10
    -   At least once during grades 6-8
    -   At least once during high school.

Research has shown that the earlier hearing loss is identified the greater the potential for the development of speech and language. Children that don't receive appropriate support are also much more likely to fall behind academically, with 1/3 of children with hearing loss failing one grade. Once a hearing loss is diagnosed, there are many adjustments that can be made for children. These may include: hearing aids and/or amplification of the teacher to increase the gap between the volume of the teacher and the background noise. Given the importance of hearing on academic performance, social growth, and career prospects it is imperative that we all take a more active role in identifying hearing loss in children.

Article submitted by Andrew Murphy, VOICE Media Committee

SOURCE VOICE for Hearing Impaired Children

For further information: For further information: To speak with a representative of VOICE or to be referred to a family or auditory-verbal professional in your community, please contact Norah-Lynn McIntyre, Executive Director,; Visit or call VOICE at 1-866-779-5144

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