If your child is inattentive at school, getting bad grades or is behaving poorly, your first assumption may be that they have a learning disability. However, hearing loss can cause the same issues and is much more common in children than many realize. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 15 percent of children ages six to 19 have at least a slight hearing loss in one or both ears.
Any amount of hearing loss – even in just one ear – can have a significant impact on school performance. Research shows that 25-35 percent of children with unilateral (one-sided) hearing loss are at risk of failing at least one grade level.
Hearing Ability and Learning Ability Are Closely Connected
It is well-established that untreated hearing loss causes delays in speech and language development in children. When children start school already behind in development, it translates to learning problems and poor school performance.
The impact of hearing loss in academic settings sometimes mirrors symptoms of ADHD, meaning children can be misdiagnosed, putting them even further behind. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) reports that children with mild to moderate hearing loss who don’t get help are likely to fall behind their peers by anywhere from one to four grade levels.
Those with severe hearing loss who go untreated typically do not progress beyond third-grade level.
What Causes this Education Gap?
The cause of the education gap between children with hearing loss and their normal-hearing peers has nothing to do with intelligence or ability. Rather, classrooms simply aren’t designed to support children with hearing loss. Teachers have many students to tend to, and often do not or cannot alter their teaching style to accommodate everybody.
One example of how this can affect students with hearing loss is the teacher may face the whiteboard while teaching, meaning their voice is directed away from the students. Another example is that teachers often provide oral instructions rather than written instructions, which can make it hard for students with hearing loss to keep up, and may mean they miss part of the directions.
Intervention Makes All the Difference
Fortunately, research shows that hearing aids can help with language development in kids with hearing loss, and children who receive hearing aids or other intervention like cochlear implants can perform just as well as their peers in the classroom.
For more information about childhood hearing loss or to schedule an evaluation for your child, call the Hearing & Balance Center at Charleston ENT today.