The Importance of Back to School Hearing Exams and What Parents Need To Know

Happy child with small clock near a school board with inscriptions. Back to school, education concept.

Hearing provides a significant advantage to a child’s learning, but it is not something that can be assumed. According to the National Institute of Health, approximately three out of every 1,000 children experience detectable hearing loss at birth, but that does not account for those born with hearing loss that is not detectable. For those children, the hearing loss might become more severe as they age. Because not all hearing loss is noticeable, children must undergo back-to-school hearing exams. These exams ensure your child is at a hearing level appropriate for their age; they also provide early warnings and advantages for at-risk youth.

Why Do Kids Need Hearing Exams?

Hearing exams or assessments are essential for children because hearing loss is not always evident to a parent or guardian. A child might only have partial hearing loss, or they might only experience loss in one ear. In these instances, the parent or guardian is unlikely to notice signs of loss because the child is still responsive and quite capable in quieter environments, such as a home. However, the slight hearing loss can become problematic when in louder and more distracting environments, like a classroom or public space.

If a child does not undergo hearing assessments at particular ages, the loss can develop further. As hearing loss progresses, it will become challenging for your child to keep up in the classroom and the playground. Their grades and peer relationships will struggle, which can result in mental health and developmental challenges.

Signs of Hearing Loss in Children

While not all signs of hearing loss are immediately apparent, it is vital to be on the lookout for any indications as a parent or guardian. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are several signs of hearing loss in children, including:

  • Struggling with speech
  • Lower academic performance
  • Use of simpler and shorter sentences than peers
  • Adjusting television or media volume too high

Additionally, hearing loss can affect a child’s social development and mental well-being. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, a child experiencing hearing loss can struggle to maintain social groups and suffer from self-esteem issues.

What Do Parents Need To Know About Hearing Exams?

As a parent or guardian, you need to understand the importance of hearing exams to childhood development. It is easy to underestimate your ears’ role in early maturation, and it is easier still to assume hearing loss is not a problem for your child, especially if neither parent nor guardian suffers from loss. Therefore, it is essential to know about the frequency of screenings, how school screenings are not enough, and the pertinence of complete diagnostic exams.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends multiple hearing screenings throughout childhood and adolescence. According to the AAP, there are at least five times a child should undergo a hearing screening:

  1. School entry
  2. Once at 6, 8, and 10 years of age
  3. Once in middle school
  4. Once in high school
  5. If there is no record of previous screenings

However, a school screening is not enough. For one thing, school screenings do not account for incidentals, meaning a child might present with some hearing loss because of allergies, illness, or infection, not permanent or actual loss. Additionally, screenings at the recommended ages do not account for environmental factors at other ages. For example, about 30% higher than in previous decades, one in five teens experience some level of hearing loss today. Because of the variation and unpredictability of outside factors, it is recommended that children and teens who experience symptoms of hearing loss undergo a complete diagnostic exam.

More often than not, your child will only require a complete diagnostic exam if screening results indicate a problem or a discrepancy. You can take your child to a hospital or other medical facility for a thorough examination with a referral. The exam is likely similar to the screening performed at the school, but it is more in-depth and conducted by a physician.

If you are concerned about your child’s hearing, you do not have to wait for a school screening. You can contact your child’s primary care physician. They can perform an initial exam and provide you with a referral if necessary. The most important thing is to receive early intervention and protect your child’s hearing.

Ways To Prevent Hearing Loss in Children

The increase in hearing loss among teens is due primarily to the advancements in technology, primarily headphones, and portable music devices. While manufacturers might establish volume level warnings — typically at 60% or less — there are no barriers to listening at higher levels. 

Children and teens tend to turn up the volume to drown out external noise and do so for extended periods. Prolonged exposure and frequency can result in premature hearing loss, even permanent hearing loss.

Ways To Help Your Child Prepare for a Hearing Screening or Test

As parents and children get ready for back-to-school hearing exams in Arizona, it is necessary to prepare youngsters for the test. Despite the simplicity and unobtrusive nature of the exams, it is not uncommon for children to get nervous before medical exams. To limit the nerves, you can help them understand the process, explaining exactly what to expect. If you are not sure yourself, consider speaking to a local practitioner about the specifics of the exam before talking to your child.

While kids hearing exams conducted at schools can serve as early detection for hearing loss, a parent must realize that these screenings are not adequate. To better protect your child’s hearing, schedule an appointment at one of the several Happy Ears locations in Arizona.