Whether it comes via your inbox, is thrust proudly into your hands, or found crumpled in the backpack, the school report is always opened with anticipation. You read it with the hope your child is thriving and when the results indicate otherwise, a range of assumptions run through your mind – they’re not academic, their friend is a bad influence, they’re easily distracted.
But did you know that a mild hearing loss in a child could be behind struggles at school? The World Health Organisation reports that a staggering 60 percent of childhood hearing loss is due to preventable causes and recommends that all children have their hearing screened around the time they start school.
Mild Hearing Loss In Child
The need for more thorough screening was also highlighted in a 2017 report by Coventry University academics after their study found 25 percent of its participants who had reading difficulties showed mild or moderate hearing impairment, of which their parents and teachers were unaware.
Mild hearing loss in child can have direct impacts on their learning. | Image source: iStock
Mild Hearing Loss In Child: What are the signs?
According to itinerant hearing teacher Bronwyn Geoghegan, reading is just one area that could be showing a child is hard of hearing. “The teacher may also comment that a child is inattentive or that they often request repetition or clarification of instructions,” says Geoghegan. She lists attention-seeking and daydreaming as other behaviours to watch out for.
The ways children interact with their peers can also provide clues. Geoghegan explains that students with hearing loss often find listening all day, every day, to be difficult and exhausting so they may even choose to isolate themselves.
Playground politics can be tricky too. “Students with hearing loss might think they’ve heard something and take offence, but merely it’s just a misunderstanding… there could even be conflict on the social side of things,” says Geoghegan.
As children with hearing issues move through the years, behaviours can vary. Around the kindergarten stage, when ear infections are common, those affected often look to their peers for cues. “If the teacher says to stand up and line up at the door, for example, you watch them and they are watching for what other children are doing,” says Geoghegan.
As they reach late primary and early high school, active play decreases and group chat becomes more common, particularly with girls. “We’ve got a lot more of the social language, idioms, colloquialisms, the words with multiple meanings, and all of the nuances,” explains Geoghegan. “If they’ve missed a lot of that social language, it can isolate them.”
Group work could be suffering
Group work also becomes increasingly important in later primary and issues may be noted by the teacher. “To be part of a group effectively, you need to be able to hear well,” says Geoghegan. “If you’re missing out on what’s happening in that group work, it could have implications not only for your school life but also really post-school options.”
For Stephen Parry’s son Aidan, who was diagnosed with a hearing issue when he was eight, group work was a pain point. “He didn’t like being in groups very much. He just found it difficult. He was a bit socially awkward and he’d always feel that he was getting things wrong or he could get emotional about things because he was feeling under pressure that he didn’t understand it all the time,” says Stephen.
Group work was an issue for Aidan. | Image: iStock
Aidan, now 11, has high-frequency profound hearing loss so when sounds hit a certain frequency, he can’t hear them. Sound Scouts, a clinically-proven and government-funded app that tests hearing in children from four years old, was instrumental in detecting his hearing loss. He now wears hearing aids and gets the support he needs at school, both of which are free thanks to government funding through Australian Hearing.
“He gets acknowledgement about working better in groups and being more accommodating for other people to be involved in what he’s doing… he’s always been good at academic things when it comes to just him doing them but they’ve improved with group work because he’s now more comfortable,” explains Stephen. “The change in him has just been amazing.”
There’s an app to check their hearing! | Image source: iStock
Aidan’s hearing loss is only one type in a range that can affect children. Hearing issues can develop at any age and the signs are not always obvious. Regularly saying ‘what’ or ‘huh’; mispronouncing words; speaking louder than others; losing focus; and having trouble hearing in noisy places are just a few of the indicators.
The earlier hearing loss is detected, the better for a child’s language, learning and overall development, so speak to your GP to make sure you’re on top of it.
For Stephen’s family, it’s been life-changing. “If Aidan hadn’t had it called out at school then I don’t know what age he would have, and what other problems he may have continued to have.”
This article was first published on KidSpot and republished on theAsianparent with permission.
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