[hearing loss]

The Sound Scouts app checks for three different hearing issues. What are they?

May 27, 2020

It’s important to keep a regular check on your family’s hearing health as damage and loss can occur at any time as a result of many different factors. We explore what the three types of hearing difficulties Sound Scouts tests for are, and how we test them.

Conductive Hearing Loss

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Conductive hearing loss is a condition that affects the outer ear, the eardrum, and the middle ear. A conductive loss occurs when there is a blockage or deformity preventing the ossicles (the three tiny bones in the ear) from vibrating properly which interferes with the sound traveling to the inner ear.

Conductive hearing loss can be caused by a variety of things including a build-up of ear wax, foreign objects in the ear canal, a ruptured eardrum, fluid in the ear, or a middle ear infection. Middle ear infections are common for children and it is important to be aware that hearing loss may remain even once the infection subsides. Often temporary, the loss can usually be improved with medicine or surgery.

The first activity in the Sound Scouts assessment checks the player’s ability to hear speech in quiet (ie identifying words with no noise in the background). The results from this activity play a part in determining if the player has a conductive hearing loss.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Graphics of gameplay: helicopter flying in front of trees and bushes in background. Red button at bottom middle.

Sensorineural hearing loss is a condition that occurs in the inner ear and includes damage to either the hair cells of the cochlea or the auditory nerve itself. This type of damage can be present at birth or as a result of head trauma, exposure to loud noise, some medicines, viral infections, or other environmental factors. It commonly occurs due to aging and once there is damage or loss of hair cells in the inner ear, the loss is permanent.

Sensorineural loss is considered on a spectrum from mild to profound, causing partial deafness in some people and impacting frequency-based hearing issues in others. While damage to the inner ear is permanent, in most cases a hearing aid, or in the case of a profound loss a cochlear implant, can help restore some hearing.

The second activity in Sound Scouts assesses the player’s ability to hear tone-in-noise. This section of the test is largely independent of language. It is based around the principles of play audiometry with the players rewarded when they correctly identify the sounds.

Listening Difficulties in Noise

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Listening difficulties in noise is an issue that often goes undetected. Normal results in an audiogram may not provide an accurate indication of a person’s ability to listen and hear in noise. While hearing in quiet can be within the normal range, hearing in noisy environments, such as the classroom or a restaurant, may be difficult.

The third activity in Sound Scouts aims to identify the presence of difficulties hearing in noise. The activity requires the player to identify words spoken against a noisy background.

There are a number of possible causes for a player to receive a Sound Scouts’ result indicating difficulties hearing in noise. These include auditory processing disorder, a developmental delay, a language issue, attention deficit, and English as a second language (bilingual/multi-lingual capabilities).

Mixed Hearing Loss

Girl with hearing aid on looking out window

In some cases, there can be more than one hearing loss present. Mixed hearing loss is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss, indicating problems in both the inner and middle ear. Medication, surgery, hearing aids, or middle ear implants may provide solutions for these issues.

Hearing loss is rarely black and white. There are multiple types of hearing loss, severities of loss, and causes. Each hearing loss will affect each individual in different ways. For this reason, it is important to test for all the different types of hearing issues to avoid overlooking a problem that may occur in the grey zone.

To check yours and your family’s hearing, download the clinically approved and government-supported Sound Scouts app. All you need is a pair of adult headphones, a quiet room, and a smartphone or tablet.

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Sound Scouts is now FREE for Australian school children thanks to Hearing Australia and funding from the Australian Government. Support available on 1300 424 122