Should a hearing test be on your child’s back-to-school list?
Homework binder. Check!
Hand sanitizer. Check!
Hearing test, Wait! What?
Are you enjoying those last official days of summer before kids of all ages start or go back to school or college? Parents and families will be cramming in activities before September to make the most of summer vacation and be prepared for the school year.
Most parents expect and plan to have school and sports physicals for their children. As you prepare that back-to-school list of what you need to do and buy before the school bell rings consider one of the most important to-do items when it comes to your child’s learning and thriving.
Since COVID-19, referrals/requests for hearing evaluations of young children have increased, according to this study from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. There is a higher incidence of healthcare providers—including audiologists at AtlantiCare—evaluating children’s hearing. Issues include having ringing in the ears (tinnitus), difficulty understanding speech and difficulty having conversations with competing/background noise. Elevating concerns for youth is that these communication issues carry over to their academic environment.
Behavior parents or teachers might consider as “disinterest in school” or “lack of focus in class” could stem from an auditory processing disorder. Hearing and auditory processing disorders can make communication more challenging and contribute to miscommunication.
For children, this can lead to learning difficulties and impact their behavioral and social skills.
A child’s auditory processing—how the ear and brain communicate—might not be functioning properly. Because something prevents the brain from recognizing and interpreting sounds correctly, even though the child might hear everything you or the teacher say, they have a hard time processing what the words mean. This is called central auditory processing disorder (CAPD). The classroom environment—including multiple people speaking at once, background noises or, visual distractions—can make it even more difficult for your child to process what they are hearing. CAPD can play a significant role in a child’s ability to learn, communicate, socialize and develop as they should.
One of the most important lessons parents and educators we must all learn is that when it comes to kids, there is a big difference between hearing and listening. Children who might seem “disinterested in schoolwork” or “distracted in the classroom,” could have an underlining hearing issue. Instead of asking why a child doesn’t listen to their teacher or do what the teacher asked, it’s better to ask is if that child is able to hear all the information and if they understand it.
We and our audiologist colleagues at AtlantiCare—Dannielle Wall, AU.D, and Holly Reynolds, Au.D.—have all worked with children who have CAPD. When we assess a child, we evaluate specific auditory skill-sets to determine how well the child processes what they hear. The CAPD assessments often lead to collaboration with other healthcare and educational professionals that ultimately help shape a student’s individual educational plans (IEPs). This supports more effective learning inside and outside of the classroom. We’ve even found that children who had been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD) actually had a hearing or processing issue.
Signs a child may have CAPD, include:
• Frequently mishearing sounds or words
• Struggling to hear in noisy environments, improved listening behaviors in quieter environments
• Trouble distinguishing between similar sounds
• Struggling to follow verbal directions
• Trouble following conversations or “tuning out” during complex conversations
• Challenges with spelling, phonics, verbal math problems, language or reading
If you are concerned that a your child might have CAPD or another hearing or processing issue, ask your pediatrician or primary care provider to refer the child for an assessment.
Parents, teachers, family members and healthcare providers can work tougher to understand how children are experiencing their world. This goes for hearing and so many other factors that impact children beyond whether they have that backpack filled—and that it’s not too heavy—on the first day of school and throughout life.
For more information about AtlantiCare Physician Group, Audiology or to find a physician, visit atlanticare.org or call 1-888-569-1000.
Elena Ballezzi, Au.D. and Janet Revelle, Au.D., are with AtlantiCare Physician Group, Audiology.