Just as children’s bodies change over time, their ability to hear can change, too, says Jennifer Scarboro Hensley, family and youth resource specialist for the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing.
As kids head back to school, it is important to be aware of the the signs of hearing loss, adds Hensley. The child who frequently asks other children or adults to repeat themselves, turns toward a sound to hear better or requests raising the volume on the radio or TV could be having trouble.
Complaints of pain or ringing in the ears or rubbing or tugging at the ears can be other red flags. When a teen talks too loudly or fails to respond to questions—or when a teacher says your child does not seem to be listening in class—consider scheduling a hearing checkup.
We asked Hensley to answer a few questions about what parents can do if they suspect a child or teen might not be hearing properly.
When kids seem to be struggling in school, hearing loss may not always be at the top of the list of possible causes. Should it be?
A hearing screening, if not up to date, should be considered, especially if your child struggles with communicating. Communication is crucial for social and emotional development. It’s always good to rule out [hearing difficulties] if a child is having issues in school.
What steps should parents take to find out if problems in school are hearing related?
Ask questions. Follow up with your child and his or her teacher. If you or your child’s teacher are concerned about what your child hears or doesn’t hear, contact the school nurse to see what resources are available for a hearing screening.
At what ages should hearing screenings take place and who should screen children? A school nurse? The child’s pediatrician? An ear, nose and throat doctor?
The American Academy of Audiology recommends hearing screenings in preschool, kindergarten and first, third, fifth and seventh or ninth grades.
Ask your child’s pediatrician and/or school nurse if you aren’t sure your child’s hearing has been checked. These services can be provided directly or through other school staff. If screening results are unclear or atypical, you will need to take your child for follow-up testing with an audiologist.
What are the options once hearing loss is discovered?
Rather than “options,” it may be beneficial to consider many of the opportunities for deaf and hard of hearing children. There are professionals working with deaf and hard of hearing individuals and their families statewide and nationally to support this journey.
Can you name some local resources that could be helpful?
Arizona Hands & Voices, a parent-led organization, supports other parents with deaf and hard of hearing children. Early intervention and school-age services are provided by Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and Blind. Resources from the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing are available for any information, advocacy and referral needs.