What You Need to Know About Hearing Loss and Educational Delay in children

What is Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is a partial or total loss of the ability to hear. This can be temporary or permanent. It can happen in one or both ears. Hearing problems, especially when your child is very young, can affect your child’s education. It can also cause poor communication skills.

Common causes of hearing loss that may affect your child’s education include:

  • Too much wax or fluid in the ear over a long period of time.
  • Frequent ear infections.
  • Injury to the ear or surrounding area.
  • An object stuck in the ear.
  • Prolonged exposure to loud sounds, such as music.

How can hearing loss affect my child in school?

Having good hearing is important for learning, especially for learning speech and language. In school, your child may struggle with:

  • Hearing and understanding others.
  • Answering questions.
  • Following spoken (verbal) instructions.
  • Following conversations, especially in rooms with background noise. Your child may often ask people to repeat things.
  • Learning and understanding enough words (poor vocabulary development).
  • Participating in activities or sports.

Your child may not be able to do work that is required (not perform at grade level). He or she may lose interest in school or be hyperactive.

What steps can I take to lower my child’s risk of educational delay?

Preventive care and treatment

  • Watch for signs that your child may be having trouble hearing, such as:
    • Symptoms of an ear infection. Symptoms may include ear pain, rubbing or pulling at the ears, dizziness or loss of balance, or fluid draining from the ears.
    • Not responding to or understanding sounds or speech spoken at a normal volume.
    • Buzzing or ringing in the ear.
  • Have your child get hearing tests (hearing screenings) as often as recommended. Hearing screenings are often offered by schools, community centers, and your child’s health care provider.
  • If directed, work with a health care provider who specializes in:
    • Ear structure and function (otologist).
    • Hearing problems (audiologist).
    • Speech and language development (speech-language pathologist).
  • Start treatment for hearing loss as early as possible. This can keep it from getting worse or affecting your child’s education. Treatment may include:
    • Hearing aids.
    • A hearing device that is implanted into the inner ear (cochlear implant). This helps your child hear sounds more clearly.
    • A program (aural rehabilitation) to educate you and your family about hearing loss. This will also help you understand your role in your child’s long-term treatment.
  • Take steps to prevent hearing loss from getting worse:
    • Get medical treatment for your child’s ear infections right away.
    • Keep your child away from loud noises and secondhand smoke.
    • Monitor the volume on electronic devices that your child uses.
    • Encourage your child to use ear plugs or noise-reducing headphones when listening to electronic devices and at places with loud sounds, such as musical or sporting events.
    • Make sure that your child is up-to-date with his or her vaccines.

Helping your child learn

  • Work with your child’s teachers and education specialists to make an education program (Individualized Education Program, IEP) that is right for your child. Your child’s education will be provided in the regular school environment as much as possible (least restrictive environment). Your child’s IEP may include:
    • Having the teacher wear a small microphone that makes his or her voice louder (personal amplification system).
    • Other special equipment and visual supports to help your child understand verbal information.
    • Being seated closer to the front of classrooms or away from sources of noise.
    • Help with speech, language, and listening from a speech-language pathologist.
    • Special education classes, if needed.
    • Programs to help with your child’s social and emotional needs.
  • Work closely with your child’s health care providers and teachers. Your child’s IEP may need to be reviewed and adjusted regularly.
  • Learn as much as you can about your child’s condition and the services provided by your child’s school.

Where to find support

To find support for preventing educational delay due to hearing loss:

  • Talk with your child’s health care providers and teachers. Ask about hearing screenings, support services, and ways to keep your child from falling behind at school.
  • Consider having your child join a support group.
  • Find other parents of children with hearing loss through the Hearing Loss Association of America: www.hearingloss.org/content/parents-children-hearing-loss

Seek additional information

Learn more about hearing loss and educational delay from:

Summary

  • Hearing problems, especially when your child is very young, can cause poor communication skills and can interfere with your child’s education.
  • Have your child get hearing screenings as often as directed.
  • Starting treatment early can help prevent or reduce educational delay.
  • Find out what services your child’s school provides to help your child. This may include developing an IEP.
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