It’s hard to believe, but it’s back to school time again! This is an exciting time for students and parents alike. I like to think of it as a fresh start.
If grades don’t seem to be where they should be as the school year progresses, consider a hearing evaluation for your student. Even a minimal amount of hearing loss, or hearing loss in just one ear, can get in the way of good comprehension and listening skills needed at every grade level.
Normal hearing is in the range of 0-25 dB HL. If a child is hearing one or more frequencies at 20-25, this is often considered minimal hearing loss. This child would not be a hearing aid candidate, but may have difficulty hearing well in a noisy classroom. If hearing is in the 25-40 dB range, then the child would have a mild hearing loss and would likely experience significant difficulty hearing in the classroom.
Hearing loss may be temporary, due to wax or fluid, or may be permanent. Audiological evaluation and medical consultation would allow us to know whether hearing loss can be treated medically or with hearing aids. A moderate or severe hearing loss will, of course, cause additional listening and academic difficulty.
According to an article in The Hearing Journal by Lippencott, Williams and Wilkins, children with minimal or mild hearing loss may have the following difficulties:
- Difficulty hearing soft or distant speech
- Difficulty hearing subtle conversational cues that may make them respond inappropriately
- Difficulty with fast speech
- Difficulty hearing word endings that define tense (ed), plurality (s) or possessiveness (‘s).
- A child with minimal or mild hearing loss may fatigue more easily in the classroom due to more effort required to understand what is said.
- The child may appear to “daydream’ or even act up if listening is just too difficult
Sometimes children have normal hearing and still demonstrate the same, or similar, symptoms. This occurs when a child has auditory processing difficulty. If hearing evaluation reveals normal hearing, but your child still seems to have trouble hearing and understanding, especially in background noise, auditory processing may be present. Some audiologists will do additional auditory processing specific to listening in the classroom and do a report with recommendations.
If auditory processing is confirmed, if a minimal amount of hearing loss is present , or if hearing aids are worn, then the child would be a candidate for use of an FM system in the classroom. With this system, the teacher would wear a microphone and her voice would be heard over the noise of the classroom. Preferential seating is also advised, with or without an FM for children with hearing loss and auditory processing difficulty. Reducing the distance between the student and teacher improves the signal to noise ratio and also allows the student to take advantage of visual cues.
If you suspect that your child is having hearing or auditory processing difficulty, call an audiologist today. If you have academic concerns, hearing loss should be ruled out.
Lori Biasotti, Au.D., CCC-A, is a NY State Licensed Audiologist with a private practice audiology and hearing aid dispensing office in Fishkill, NY in the Hudson Valley Towne Center, near Charlie Brown’s Restaurant. Call for an appointment or visit our website at www.familyhearing.org.