Oticon Alta

Mild Hearing Loss and Academic Delays

First, you need to know that a mild hearing loss at that age DOES cause academic and learning problems, including delays in speech development. Your daughter's brain development is dependent upon maintaining normal hearing thresholds.

The data from multiple research studies shows that hearing loss as mild as 16dB can cause an academic delay of about one year in reading and math ability. Hearing losses of 25dB (still mild) can cause a delay of up to two years.

In my study of school systems throughout the U.S., and anecdotally during in-service training I've been called upon to provide, we've found a correlation as high as 90% between those being held back one year in school and undiagnosed/uncorrected mild hearing loss. Furthermore, in an even higher percentage of cases, the child that is held back a year in elementary school has experienced at least 3 or more episodes of OME (otitis media with effusion) during the first three years of their lives.

The correlation between early childhood ear infections and later psychosocial/academic behavior is so strong that it behooves alert parents and educators alike to be on the lookout for children who are lagging academically, particularly in reading ability, who have a history of childhood ear infections.

To gain a greater understanding of how one might work to overcome this huge problem, I suggest looking up our website www.digicare.org and under ''Hearing Library'' study the ''Cognitive Primer'' article and other valuable, hard-to-find information found there. Moreover, we need to realize that unless a school's hearing and hearing loss programs are supervised by an audiologist, that it is highly unlikely to meet standards. A mere 1,500 school districts out of 16,500 in the U.S.A. have an audiologist supervising their hearing program.

You asked, where to go from here? I would strongly suggest you take your child to an audiologist for a full audiometric evaluation, being sure to note early childhood ear infection history. From there, if any of the red flag conditions present, she will be referred to the appropriate physician for further investigation.

A word to the wise: Summertime presents an excellent opportunity for parents to rectify children's hearing and communication problems. By addressing these problems early in the summer, children can start the new school year fresh, with an opportunity to ''catch up'' and excel in their academic performance.

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