Kids in School: Have You Done this Check to Help them Succeed?

February 2, 2021

by Elizabeth Linsdell

We regularly check our children’s teeth and eyes, so why are parents neglecting an equally important annual check?

Key points in this article

  • Children are great at disguising this condition, so it’s important to check for issues annually
  • It can impact a child’s mental health, their ability to socialise and academic development
  • Test your child using the free app Sound Scouts supported by the Australian Department of Health

Failing to do this important check could be impacting your child's success at school.

Ensuring our children can see and their teeth are not filled with holes is a top priority, but surprisingly ensuring our children can hear properly is not registering on the ‘to do’ list of most parents.

An annual hearing check is important particularly when it comes to your child’s health and wellbeing; and their day-to-day experience at school, in the classroom and playground. We suspect many parents don’t give their child’s hearing a second thought after they receive the thumbs up in the newborn hearing check in the hospital. But this test is not a lifetime guaranteed that your children won’t experience hearing issues and so regular checks are important.

When I was a child, I remember spending car trips squinting at the road signs my family and I passed on our way to visit ‘Granny’, who lived in a quaint 1950s home that was propped up on the chalk cliffs of Peacehaven, England. I was trying to make out the blurry words of the towns and counties sprawled against the green metal signs when I noticed that I could read the town names much clearer when I drew my eyelids closer together.

I remember declaring it to my family in the car with such pride as if I’d just discovered a superpower that only I could do (as the youngest daughter of three, it was very important for me to make my mark). Much to my younger self’s disappointment, my parents’ response failed to match my excitement. My mum, who has been wearing glasses since a young girl, instantly knew that I needed glasses.

Had I not had glasses in school, I would have struggled to read the board in the classroom and the numbers on buses on my journey to school each day.

A child adjusts easily to subtle ‘discomforts’. So easily that they (and often their parents) don’t always notice that something isn’t quite right. Issues with teeth and eyesight worsen over time, so we visit the optometrist and the dentist regularly to check all is in order. So why aren’t parents checking their children’s hearing regularly?

Don’t assume your children can hear. Check and be certain!

It's not always obvious that a child has a hearing loss.

Children are ‘masters of disguise’ when it comes to hearing loss. They often develop coping mechanisms to deal with and cover up their hearing loss such as lip-reading or copying their peers or siblings. Sometimes, the consequence of their undetected hearing loss may be disguised as a personality trait, such as being shy or hot-tempered.

An estimated 1 child in every 10 has a hearing loss. Even a mild hearing loss can impact a child’s hearing, and in turn, cause listening fatigue, gaps in conversation, and hindered learning experiences.

A major issue with hearing loss remaining undiagnosed and untreated in children seems to be the misconception around hearing tests. While the newborn hearing check is extremely important, particularly in identifying babies born with moderate to severe loss, it is not the one and only time children should have their ears checked. Hearing loss can develop at any time, whether it be from a viral infection, injury, genetics or most commonly, glue ear.

It’s particularly important to rule out hearing loss as the cause of learning and behavioural issues before extensive behavioural diagnostics are carried out. If you have not checked your child’s hearing, your child could be at risk of being misdiagnosed with behavioural issues such as ADHD.

Some of the ways in which an undetected hearing loss could be impacting your child include:

- Holding them back in the classroom

- Impacting their ability to socialise in the playground

- May cause listening fatigue which can lead to tiredness, frustration and misbehaviour. Learn more about listening fatigue.

Complete your child’s annual hearing check with the government-funded app

The Sound Scouts app is free for all Australian parents to test their child's hearing.

Tick ‘hearing check’ off your ‘to do’ list this year by making use of the government-funded Sound Scouts hearing app. The app is a free, clinically-approved service that has been developed to provide all children in Australia with access to a hearing check. The test is delivered in the form of a game so it’s fun to use. All you need is a smartphone or tablet, a good quality pair of adult headphones and a quiet space.

We’re calling on all caregivers to test your children’s hearing so that you can be sure they are hearing with confidence throughout the school year.

by Elizabeth Linsdell