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Falling on deaf ears: Experts Call for earlier detection of hearing loss as new research shows parents don't prioritise test for children

March 3, 2019

Falling on deaf ears: Experts Call for earlier detection of hearing loss as new research shows parents don’t prioritise test for children

Australian parents urged to test their child’s hearing using clinically proven FREE, government funded hearing test app, Sound Scouts, this Hearing Awareness Week

SYDNEY, 3 rd March – New research launched this Hearing Awareness Week reveals that Australian parents aren’t prioritising critical hearing tests in children. Results show that a staggering one in five (18%) parents have either never had their child’s hearing tested or are unsure if they have.1

With one in ten children being held back at school by hearing loss, experts are calling for early detection at this important stage of development and learning to avoid lifelong impacts of hearing impairment.2 A new grant of $4 million through the Department of Health is now enabling Australian Hearing to deliver free online hearing tests through the Sound Scouts app. This is critical given many children’s hearing loss is not picked up until they are well into their schooling.

“Prompt diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss is vital for a great start to school. We want our children to be using their energy to learn in class and be social in the playground, rather than focusing on trying to understand what they’re hearing. That’s why we urge parents this Hearing Awareness Week to give their children the Little Aussie Hearing Test – a free and fun, at-home or at-school, game-based app provided by Sound Scouts,” said Samantha Harkus, principal audiologist at Australian Hearing.

Research reveals that Australian parents are not prioritising hearing tests in children, despite high awareness of the impact of hearing loss.1 Three quarters (75%) of Australian parents haven’t had their child’s hearing tested before they start primary school despite the majority (80%) of them recognising that hearing loss can lead to learning difficulties in children and 95% knowing that hearing loss in children can cause behavioral and social problems.1 Parents are also more likely to prioritise dental or sight checks over hearing tests.1

This may be due to gaps in knowledge around the signs of hearing loss in children. Almost half of parents incorrectly think that hearing loss in children can only be caused by hereditary or genetic conditions.1 Additionally, over 30% don’t know that trouble pronouncing words is a sign of hearing loss in children and over 40% don’t know that losing focus in noisy places is a sign of hearing loss in children.1

“With 1.3 million Australians living with hearing loss that could have been prevented, Hearing Awareness Week is a time for us to reflect on what more we can do to diagnose and treat hearing problems earlier.3 Appropriate support and treatment are available – but early diagnosis is essential. The government funded Sound Scouts program is a fun, clinically proven and an easy way to help lead to this early diagnosis,” said The Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP, the Minister responsible for hearing services policy.

Results also show that parents are willing to take action on testing their children’s hearing. Almost nine out of ten parents (89%) would give their child a free hearing test at home via an app, if they were given the opportunity.1 Now, with the Morrison Government funding a $4 million national rollout of the Sound Scouts app for the next five years, hundreds of thousands of school aged children will benefit from the Australian-developed app that delivers a user-friendly hearing test and information on how children can be referred for further testing and appropriate support for hearing problems.

For more information and to download the free Sound Scouts app, please go to: www.soundscouts.com

MEDIA CONTACT

Emma David

WE Buchan

T. 0448 634 945

E. edavid@we-buchan.com

NOTES TO EDITORS

About hearing loss in children There are around 13,500 children under the age of 15 fitted with hearing aids or cochlear implants in Australia per year.4 The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that all children should have their hearing screened around the time they start school.5 Different types of hearing loss include:2

  • Sensorineural hearing loss is a permanent condition. It’s typically treated by the use of hearing aids.

  • Conductive loss can be caused by issues in the outer or middle ear. It can be treated by clearing the blockage (such as wax) or taking medication. In some cases, surgery is needed to treat the problem.

  • Spatial processing disorder (SPD) is a brain-based hearing issue that affects a child’s ability to hear in noise. Once identified, hearing care professionals can assist with addressing the issue.

Children use their hearing to learn about the world around them and develop communication skills. Hearing issues can develop at any age, so it’s important to be aware of the key signs displayed by a child if they have a hearing problem. These include:2

  • Losing focus in noisy places

  • Trouble pronouncing words

  • Speaking loudly

  • Learning difficulties at school

A child with an undetected hearing impairment can experience delays in speech and language development, trouble in social situations, behavioral issues, and increased risk of academic failure.6 This in turn affects their relationships with family and friends, their education, and future employment. It’s critical that even mild hearing loss is identified as soon as possible. The sooner issues are detected, and treatment or management is provided, the better chance a child has of living a normal life.

About Sound Scouts

Sound Scouts recognises that mobile game technology holds the key to creating an accessible hearing test solution for school aged children. Partnering with National Acoustic Laboratories, the research division of Australian Hearing, the company created an app that provides parents and schools with direct access to a hearing check for their children, incorporating the science of a hearing test in a fun game so that children don’t even know they are being tested.

References


  1. “Pure Profile. Survey of 1,000 Australian parents with children aged 4-14 years old. February 2019.” [return]
  2. Sounds Scouts website. Available at: https://www.soundscouts.com/. Accessed February 2019. [return]
  3. HCIA. Over 1.3 million Australians are living with hearing loss that could have been prevented – new report finds.2017. Available at: https://www.hcia.com.au/1-3-million-australians-living-hearing-loss-prevented-new-report-finds/#.XHRVbOgzbIU Accessed February 2019. [return]
  4. HCIA. The social and economic cost of hearing loss in Australia. 2017. Available at: http://www.hcia.com.au/hcia-wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Social-and-Economic-Cost-of-Hearing-Health-in-Australia_June-2017.pdf Accessed February 2019. [return]
  5. World Health Organisation. Childhood hearing loss. 2016. Available at: https://www.who.int/pbd/deafness/world-hearing-day/WHD2016_Brochure_EN_2.pdf. Accessed February 2019. [return]
  6. Bilateral hearing loss is associated with decreased nonverbal intelligence in US children aged 6 to 16 years, Emmett, S.D. and Francis H.W, Laryngoscope, (2014). [return]