What You Need to Know About School Hearing Screenings

Last update on Jul, 31, 2019

34 states have mandated school hearing screenings, but how much do you know about these screenings? Why do they do them? What exactly are they testing? How accurate is it? What should parents expect to come out of it?

What is the purpose of school hearing screenings?

School hearing screening requirements vary by state, but they identify hearing loss that may have been missed at birth, lost due to lack of follow-up, or developed with age. Like school eye screenings, school hearing screenings are a basic test used to indicate if further testing is needed. You may think that your child does not need to get their hearing tested, but many parents don’t notice hearing loss in their children.

According to Dr. Carrie Meyer, Au.D. and Amplifon’s Director of Clinical Programs, “Most parents miss mild hearing loss in their kids because of fluid in their ears.” This is very common and caused by illnesses like ear infections, colds, and allergies. If key indicators of hearing loss are found, your child will receive a referral notice to take them to an audiologist for a hearing exam.

Are school hearing screenings accurate?

In a study about public school screening accuracy done by the American Journal of Audiology, the data averaged a 48% false-positive referral rate. 36 of the 75 students referred to an audiologist for further testing did not have hearing loss. [2] These school hearing screenings may not be as accurate due to a few reasons including an unideal environment for hearing testing or the child having an illness that day that effects testing.

Another study conducted at Penn State University, found that school screenings also may not detect high-frequency hearing losses. [1] This is usually seen in adolescents or older students and is caused by exposure to excessive noise. 

Are school screenings worth it?

Even with the possibility of a false-positive, hearing tests are a “simple, painless first line of defense that we can use to catch so many kids with hearing loss we wouldn’t have caught otherwise,” says Dr. Carrie Meyer. It is extremely important to identify hearing loss early so that it can be treated before it gets worse.

Good hearing is a vital component to your overall health, especially for children. According to Dr. Carrie Meyer, “Even the mildest of hearing loss will result in difficulty in school and speech development.” This may result in the child falling behind their peers.

How can I prepare my child?

Help your child prepare for the hearing screening by talking to them about what to expect during the hearing test. Make sure to discuss with them the importance of paying attention to the examiner and ‘remind them that this is a fun test, like a game, no needles or shots,’ says Dr. Meyer.  This is also a great opportunity to teach them regular habits to protect their hearing, like turning down the volume, wearing ear protection, and taking listening breaks.

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If your child is referred for further testing or if you suspect a hearing loss, schedule an appointment for a hearing screening today at a nearby provider.

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[1] National Center for Biotechnology Information https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23355103

[2] American Journal of Audiology, https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/8d15/bdd0f1e8334681bceb9283fc1ba575610a13.pdf

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