The Importance of Child Hearing Screenings

Childhood hearing screening

If you are an adult with hearing loss, you have probably noticed some ways hearing loss has affected your life. For example, participating in social events may be more difficult, some tasks at your job may be affected, or maintaining personal friendships and relationships may be more complicated. Hearing loss can affect many aspects of your everyday life.
However, consider how hearing loss affects a child. Not only can untreated hearing loss have a negative effect on the child’s social life, but it can also impact the child’s speech and language development, as well as their academic performance and self-confidence.
To ensure that hearing loss in children is properly diagnosed and treated, both the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and the American Academy of Audiology (AAA) recommend hearing screenings at multiple grades throughout a child’s schooling. However, actual screening practices vary by state and may occur as infrequently as once during a child’s public school education. Many speech-language pathologists suggest screening children in both kindergarten and third grade.
A recent study set out to evaluate whether diagnoses were missed in children with acquired, progressive, or fluctuating hearing loss if they were screened only once. To assess this, researchers screened 1,181 children in kindergarten through ninth grade at a charter school in 2016. In 2018, 862 children were screened to replicate the findings of the first screening and to collect additional data.
A similar number of children failed a pure tone screening in 2016 as in 2018, which indicates that the results are replicable. Researchers saw a three percent failure rate in 2016 and a four percent failure rate in 2018. The children who failed the screening were also distributed across grades. This indicates that it may be beneficial to screen at multiple grades in order to diagnose progressive, fluctuating, or acquired hearing loss, as well as previous misdiagnoses or children who missed previous screenings.
All children who failed the screening were referred for a diagnostic evaluation. Although letters were sent home and parents were called with an offer of free diagnostic evaluation, only two of these children were seen as part of the study. This is only a six percent rate of follow-up compliance; however, at least nine parents reported that they followed up with an evaluation elsewhere. While this means that the actual compliance rate is likely higher than six percent, it is still a poor rate.
In addition to finding that screening at multiple grades may be beneficial, researchers also found that rescreening was essential in reducing the number of false positives. While the researchers believe their screening methods and procedures affected the outcomes, they do not feel they can make a universal recommendation on screening methods until further research has been conducted.
If you are the parent or guardian of a school-aged child, be sure that your child receives screenings for hearing loss. Whenever possible, ensure that the child is screened at multiple grades. It is also essential that a child receive proper diagnosis and treatment if referred for diagnostic evaluation since appropriate treatment can help a child in speech and language development, academic performance, and social interactions.
For more information about children’s hearing screenings, or to schedule an appointment with our audiologist, please contact our office today. We are eager to care for you and your family!

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