Masters of Disguise: Is Your Child Hiding a Hearing Issue?

August 18, 2016

by Christine Mackey

Unmasking a hearing issue could be key to a positive experience at school

Children can be angels at school and devils at home. But their ability to shapeshift might be hiding a hearing issue that would benefit from further investigation.

Below is a guide to some behaviours that might be hiding a hearing issue.

The Daydreamer

Staring out the window might not be a sign of wishing they were somewhere over the rainbow. A child with hearing loss finds it hard to hear in a noisy environment like a classroom. Exhaustion from straining to hear might mean that they take time out from listening hard. Alternatively, they might not be aware that the teacher is talking to them because they simply can’t hear the teacher.

The Troublemaker

Kids who are frustrated, aggressive, act out and have high energy levels are often identified as having symptoms of ADHD. But these symptoms are shared with undiagnosed hearing loss.  Underdeveloped communication skills, difficulty in hearing instructions and exhaustion from paying attention in loud classrooms all lead to frustration, aggression and acting out.

The Loud Talker

We have all found ourselves saying “I can’t hear myself think in this noise”. Kids with hearing loss often can’t hear themselves talk. They increase the volume of their voice in line with what they can hear. We can become accustomed to the volume at which someone speaks just like we don’t notice the extra inch they have grown. It might take an outsider to comment on how loud your child is talking before you think there is a problem.

The Silent Type

It is difficult to contribute to a conversation both inside the classroom and out if you don’t know someone is talking.  Some children’s hearing issue is interpreted as shyness.  They are not contributing to class discussions because it is too hard to hear.  The playground is equally tough. A child with hearing issues might find themselves isolated because they are missing out on the subtle communication between their peers.

The Hard Stare

Your child might not be looking into your eyes while you are speaking. They could be working very hard to watch your lips moving. Children learn to cover their inability to hear well by watching the lips, facial expressions and body language of the speaker for communication cues. A simple test doctors use to check if a child is hiding a hearing loss is to place a piece of paper over their mouth while talking to the child. You can determine quickly if a child is depending on reading your lips to understand what you are saying.

The Collaborator

Communication cues are everywhere. The child who finds it hard to hear in a noisy classroom will use the rest of the class to help explain to them what the teacher is saying.  Some classroom layouts don’t facilitate children being able to see the teacher at all times.  Your master of disguise may never be noticed as having a hearing issue because their friends are giving them some of the information they need. But, they are missing out on important incidental information conveyed by voiced sounds.

Unmasking a hearing issue could change a child’s life

Kids are very adaptable. They are skilled in finding strategies to ensure no unwanted attention is drawn to them. A hearing issue might not be the first consideration of a parent or a teacher. However, children with hearing issues benefit from early intervention. A simple hearing test can determine if a child has a hearing issue. Once the hearing issue is identified they can start focusing on learning rather than their disguise.

Learn more about the signs of hearing loss in children on the Sound Scouts website.

by Christine Mackey