With close to 15% of U.S. children ages 6–19 experiencing hearing loss, New Jersey Speech-Language-Hearing Association (NJSHA) notes that May Is Better Hearing & Speech Month is the ideal time for parents to learn more about the sometimes-subtle signs of hearing loss, ways it can affect school-aged children, and where to find help.

“Some children are born with hearing loss, but it can also be acquired afterwards—from ear infections, illnesses, certain medications, noise exposure, and a variety of other causes,” said William Aber. “Those signs aren’t always immediately obvious to parents, but even mild hearing loss can have significant consequences for children in school. If parents have had concerns but haven’t sought a hearing evaluation yet, let Better Hearing & Speech Month—celebrated in May—be the time to take the next step.”

Hearing loss can affect a child’s success in school in various ways. These include problems with language arts, vocabulary, reading, math, and problem solving as well as lower scores on achievement and verbal IQ tests. It can also contribute to social and behavioral problems inside and outside the classroom.

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“Hearing screenings are conducted periodically in schools, which is an important way that we identify children with hearing loss that may have gone unnoticed because it is less severe, late onset, or misdiagnosed,” said William Aber, “However, if a parent has any concern, they shouldn’t wait for periodic school screenings. Children with mild to moderate hearing loss can achieve one to four grade levels lower, on average, than their peers with normal hearing—unless appropriate management occurs—making timely intervention critical.”

To help a child with hearing loss reach their full academic potential, William Aber recommends the following to parents:

  • Know Your Child’s Rights—All children in the Unites States are entitled to free appropriate public education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Education services designed to meet the individual educational needs of qualified students with disabilities (including hearing loss) are provided by school districts.
  • Maximize Achievement—When it comes to managing hearing loss in schools, the use of an individualized education program (IEP) maximizes a child’s success in the educational setting. The IEP may specify audiology services, speech-language pathology services, and services of teachers of the deaf or hard of hearing. Parents have a right to participate in these meetings and are a vital part of the process.
  • Champion Classroom Technology—Technology, such as an FM system, can make it easier for a child using a hearing aid or cochlear implant to hear and understand speech in a noisy classroom. Other technology solutions, such as a sound-field system, can benefit all kids in the classroom. Your IEP team should consider the specific and unique technology needs of your child. 
  • Encourage Effective Teaching Strategies—Talk to your child’s teacher about easy ways for them to help your child. Basic strategies—such as seating a child near the front, not turning one’s back while speaking, giving both verbal and written instructions on assignments, and using visual aids—can go a long way.
  • Educate About Noisy Classrooms—Noise makes it more difficult for children with hearing loss to hear classroom instruction, and it is actually a distraction for many children. Inform school personnel about ways they can make classrooms quieter. Easy techniques include placing rugs or carpets over bare floors, turning off noisy classroom equipment when not in use, and placing latex-free caps on chair legs.

If you would like a hearing evaluation for your child, please contact an audiologist.

William Aber is a member of the New Jersey Speech-Language-Hearing Association.