Multiple studies, conducted over the past 20 years by researchers at Vanderbilt University, show that unidentified, minimal hearing loss is a significant factor in the social and educational progress of young children. Many children go undiagnosed, and are often dismissed as having poor attention spans or immature attitudes.
Recent data indicates a thirty percent rise in hearing loss among U.S. adolescents and younger children. Unfortunately, this startling increase hasn’t corresponded with a rise in awareness. Many undiagnosed students are mocked by their peers, belittled by teachers, scolded by parents, and accused of having ADD. The lack of information around this issue means many years can pass before a student is diagnosed with hearing loss. Sometimes nothing is done until they reach adulthood. According to the Michigan State University, “Every teacher in the early elementary school can expect to have one-fourth to one-third of his or her students without normal hearing on any given day.”
So why aren’t both teachers and parents better informed about this issue? Quite simply, it is assumed that such a condition would be easily recognized. In actuality this might work with vision–a teacher or parent can spot a child squinting at the blackboard or misreading a clock, but not with hearing. Childhood hearing loss, evidenced by misunderstanding what has been said, asking to have things repeated, or being irresponsive when called is often misunderstood or ignored. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, JAMA, “Hearing loss is common and, in young persons, can compromise social development, communication skills, and educational achievement.”
There are solutions and technology readily available to diagnose and deal with hearing loss. Tests needed to check hearing can be easily performed by board certified audiologists, and often the solution can be found in supplying the student with a hearing aid. Studies show that hearing aids can improve attention, understanding directions, classroom participation, and self-esteem. In the past, people hesitated to get a hearing device because they assumed they were big and bulky—but today’s hearing aids are often unnoticeable, comfortable to wear, and can provide children the auditory boost they need to pay attention.