A Parent's Guide to Hearing Loss in Kids | Testing Your Child's Hearing at Home
December 16, 2020
Why are hearing checks important for kids?
An estimated 1 in 10 children suffer from hearing loss which left undetected can lead to speech, learning and behavioural issues. The World Health Organisation recommends that all children should have their hearing checked by the time they start school.
It’s important to rule out the possibility of a hearing loss, as it can be misdiagnosed for a behavioural issue or learning difficulty.
In some cases, a hearing loss may not be obvious for the parent or the child. The child may hide their hearing loss through lip-reading, or the hearing loss may be so mild that it does not seem to be causing any issues with communication.
You should be testing your child’s hearing regularly, even if they passed the newborn hearing check.
When should kids have their hearing checked?
Every child starting school should have their hearing tested, and ideally they should be tested again in Year 3 & Year 5 in line with NAPLAN. Any child identified with learning or behavioural problems should also have their hearing tested.
What are the types of hearing loss?
Conductive Hearing Loss (middle ear)
This type of hearing loss occurs when something interferes with sound travelling to the inner ear. Usually (but not always) temporary, it’s often caused by fluid from middle ear infections but can also result from ear wax build-up or a foreign object lodged in the ear canal.
It’s estimated that four out of five children will experience a middle ear infection at least once. Hearing loss can occur even after symptoms resolve because fluid can remain in the ear.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss (inner ear)
Sensorineural hearing loss results from damage to the inner ear and is permanent. It’s often present from birth but can also be acquired through exposure to loud noise, some medicines, certain viral infections and head injuries.
It exists on a spectrum, ranging from mild to profound. Hearing aids, or for those with profound loss, cochlear implants can reduce the impact of a hearing loss.
Difficulty Listening in Noise
This is a hearing issue that can occur despite a person receiving normal results in an audiogram. While hearing in quiet may be normal, hearing in noisy environments, such as the classroom or the playground, may be extremely difficult.
Difficulty hearing in noise can be caused by a number of things including (but not limited to): auditory processing disorder, a developmental delay, a language issue, attention deficit and English as a second language (or bilingual/multilingual capabilities).
Download our free guide on hearing loss in kids and how to test their hearing.
What are the signs of hearing loss in children?
While it’s important to look out for the signs of hearing loss you should check your child’s hearing regularly. This is because some children learn to hide their hearing loss.
Common signs of a hearing loss in a child:
- Your child often says “what”, “huh”, or “pardon?”
- Your child is struggling at school
- Your child gets tired easily, especially at the end of the day
- Your child is easily distracted or inattentive
- Your child doesn’t respond when they are called
Signs and behaviours that could be linked to a hearing loss that parents may not consider:
- Your child lacks confidence or has low self-esteem
- Your child is struggling with co-curricular activities, such as in sport where they need to hear their coach and teammates
- Your child may get angry, frustrated and irritated, particularly in social situations
- Your child gets anxious when faced with social situations
While these signs may flag an issue, a hearing screen will provide more information.
Testing your child’s hearing with Sound Scouts
The Sound Scouts app has been developed in collaboration with the National Acoustic Laboratories and is funded with the Department of Health to provide all Aussie kids with an accessible and affordable hearing check.
It’s a lot of fun to play, incorporating three separate test activities in one game to measure the child’s hearing abilities. Each player’s results are compared with the results of players of the same age with normal hearing.
To download our full guide to testing your child’s hearing from home, click here.